CHICAGO (CBS) — Local businesses in Chicago have been dealt a big blow as coronavirus restrictions kick in again on Friday.
As CBS 2’s Jermont Terry reported Thursday night, bars were the first businesses able to open as we entered into Phase 4, and now they are the first to get shut back down as the COVID-19 numbers creep back up.
And this comes once again around a busy holiday – this time Halloween.
Kenny Johnson was out with a leaf blower Thursday night, clearing the entrance to his South Loop bar. Sage Room, 67 E. Cermak Rd., is a lounge that has been in business for 10 years.
Yet for the second time this year, Johnson’s patrons won’t be able to grab a drink inside.
“It’s traditionally a destination spot for African-Americans,” Johnson said of Sage Room.
The mayor ordered businesses across Chicago serving liquor to shut down from 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. for at least 14 days. Bars, breweries, and taverns that do not serve food must stop indoor service altogether.
“We’re frustrated because it literally comes within 24 hours,” Johnson said.
That left Johnson no time to prepare his nearly 40 employees for loss in pay.
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Around the Sage Room, you can find extra masks. Tables are six feet apart, and the bar is stocked with hand sanitizer. Yet the Sage Room, like many bars, is forced to lose out immediately on Halloween social distance events.
“Halloween is a big weekend in the entertainment business. Obviously, since we’ve been really shut down for months, you know, people were looking forward to it. You know, we’ve had a number of inquiries. We have a number of parties that people have booked,” Johnson said. “So, you know, tomorrow, we’ll spend all day talking to these people and refunding their deposits, refunding their money.”
This is all while Johnson continues to lose money. Again, the city’s curfew means bars without food may not have anyone inside, and other businesses must close by 10 p.m.
“Is there enough scientific proof that people are getting COVID from bars?” Johnson said. “Maybe there is. Maybe there isn’t.”
But Johnson surely believes there is a target on nightlife when it comes to COVID-19.
“I don’t think any more activities happen from 10 to 1 that doesn’t happen before 10 o’clock,” he said.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city will assess the business curfew in two weeks. But Johnson said he is preparing for a much longer shutdown.