CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker ordered restaurants throughout the Chicago area to stop serving meals inside starting Friday, but now the industry is fighting back, saying a ban on dining in could actually make the pandemic worse.
The argument is if groups can’t eat inside places like restaurants, they will just gather at places where there are fewer health rules and regulations.
The flavorful Italian food still makes its way outside to customers at Piccolo Sogno. COVID-19 restrictions prevent the restaurant, like thousands of others, from serving diners inside.
“It is a crisis,” said Chef Toni Priolo.
Priolo and Ciro Longobardo own two restaurants in the Fulton River District, and they are concerned another inside dining shutdown could put that in jeopardy.
“Our industry is in deep trouble,” Priolo said.
He said he hopes their restaurants will be in business six months from now.
“We’re a very highly regulated industry. We know how to do this right,” said Sam Toia of the Illinois Restaurant Association.
One of many concerns he has is if indoor dining is shut down where groups can gather safely indoors. He adds that the restaurants he represents are among the most regulated businesses by state and local health officials and have been adapting to the pandemic with sanitation and social distancing.
Toia fears without indoor service, groups will instead gather in unregulated places like homes, and that could help accelerate the spread of the virus.
“Its going to go up, I think so as well,” he said.
“You may be with some friends of yours, but you’re also now with a whole bunch of other people that you don’t know,” said Pritzker. “So the idea that your bubble is somehow protected in a more public place than in your home is just not accurate.”
He argued Friday that both businesses and homes need to do a better job of stopping the spread of COVID-19 but still remained positive.
“I am going to fight this virus. We have got to get these numbers down, and you know why? So we can reopen these bars and restaurants,” he said.
But is Chicago in danger of no longer being a restaurant capital of the world?
“We’ll get back there, but it’s going to be a few years before we get back there,” Toia said.
The Illinois Restaurant Association hopes to meet with the governor next week. It’s estimated that at this rate 20% of restaurants in the state will close down this year.
Businesses are on life support. The restaurant association is asking for a relief package from state and federal authorities. They say if they can bail out the airlines and automobile industry, they can surely bail out the people who help feed others.