CHICAGO (CBS) — At this moment, many suburban bars and restaurants are defying Gov. JB Pritzker’s tighter COVID-19 restrictions, but who’s enforcing the rule of no indoor dining, and is facing potential punishment worth it?
CBS 2’s Steven Graves is looking at the legal side of the issue.
A closed, empty space is what the owner of Pete Mitchell’s Bar and Grill in Frankfort is determined to avoid, despite Pritzker’s order that bars and restaurants in Will, DuPage, Kane, and Kankakee counties halt indoor service due to rising virus counts.
“I’m definitely going to be staying open, and I’m defying his orders,” Mike Comise said.
But last night, the first evening defying the no indoor seating rule wasn’t the same.
“It was slow, it was slow, but that’s the thing we should do is leave it to the people. If the people want to come out, let them come out,” Comise said.
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The new restrictions in Region 7 (Will and Kankakee counties) and Region 8 (DuPage and Kane counties) were triggered when those regions’ average positivity rates surpassed 8% for three days in a row.
But a growing list of businesses are defying the governor’s orders, even though Pritzker has warned Illinois State Police could issue fines. The governor has even threatened to revoke gambling or liquor licenses from businesses that fail to comply with the new restrictions.
“That’s fine, but I will fight it in the courts,” Comise said.
CBS 2 legal analyst Irv Miller said this to businesses owners looking at the governor’s rule:
“You should take it as a potential death blow either way,” he said.
Miller said the obvious effect of stopping business could lead to permanent closure, but it could be the same after facing fines and a legal fight that also takes time.
“The restaurants will have the ability to contest it in court, but that’s down the road. That’s not going to help things out right away for either party,” Miller said.
An example? He points to a case involving State Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia), who challenged the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions months ago.
“That case a couple days ago in Sangamon County, in Springfield, just got continued for hearing until December 7th. So that tells you that the courts are not exactly in a rush to hear these cases,” he said.
Comise said it’s worth the risk if it means supporting himself and employees, while taking safety measures. Does he think the governor’s bark is bigger than his bite?
“I guess we’re going to find that out,” he said.
Pritzker said the new restrictions will stay in place until regions get their positivity rates to 6.5% or lower for at least three days in a row.
CBS 2 asked his office if any fines have been handed out yet, but we have yet to hear back.