Local business owners hold onto hope as health officials brace for post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 spike

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Winnebago County Health Department has named more than 100 businesses for not following mitigation rules. It has been a long year with restaurants and bars taking a hard hit.

We checked in with a few as they wait for good news.

“March was a long time ago it’s crazy to think that we’ve been into this eight, pushing nine months right now. It’s been an interesting ride for all restaurant owners,” said Joshua Binning, the owner of Lucha Cantina and Ranchero Pizza.

It’s been a challenging journey for local restaurants and bars with the pandemic forcing them to make difficult cuts.

“Pre-covid, we had about 40 employees on our payroll. Right now, we have eleven so a significant portion of our staff is no longer working for us just because we don’t have jobs for them right now,” Binning said.

Lucha Cantina has had curbside service, but that wasn’t enough. Which is where Ranchero Pizza was born.

“It’s all Latin-inspired pizza. It’s just a new way to say ‘here’s something interesting and fun for our guests’ and try to keep it fresh for them,” described Binning.

“If you don’t adapt, you close,” said Octane Owner Patrick Alberto.

Adapting is something Alberto has done for his downtown restaurant, doing whatever necessary to keep Octane open.

“We initiated drive up dine out about a couple of months ago where we asked the city if we could have the six parking spots for curbside. It’s our take on the 50’s car hop,” said Alberto. “It’s basically for people to park order food and eat and drink from the comfort of their own cars with a server taking their orders.”

There is light ahead with a potential vaccine and help in the form of grants.

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