Illinois Restaurant Association calls for immediate reopening of indoor dining

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FILE – In this Thursday, June 18, 2020, file photo, a closed sign hangs in the door of The Market, a long-time restaurant and food store located in Larimer Square, that has closed because of the new coronavirus, in downtown Denver. State governments are pushing for help from Congress to fix budget gaps caused by the coronavirus pandemic and economic shutdowns. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — Faced with an existential crisis to the hospitality industry due to the state’s coronavirus mitigations, the Illinois Restaurant Association is calling upon Gov. JB Pritzker to allow for indoor dining operation to resume statewide.

In a statement released Thursday, the IRA launched an Open Indoor Dining, Save Illinois Restaurants! campaign imploring the governor to allow some indoor dining with safety measures in place.

“Eating and drinking places in Illinois lost 31,000 jobs in November alone,” said IRA President and CEO Sam Toia. “This is the highest rate of hospitality job loss in the entire country, and three times as many as the next closest state. We are also one of only three states with a complete statewide shutdown of indoor dining. Restaurants are out of time, and they need a more reasonable – and immediate – path forward to save the industry. This is the reckoning.”

The IRA says 1 in 5 hospitality jobs have been lost since February 2020.

Chef Rick Bayless of Frontera Restaurants said, “Restaurant owners have done everything within their means to keep their teams together. They have followed all the guidance and protocols issued by our governor. But to carry on solely with carryout, delivery, meal kits, and mid-winter outdoor dining is simply not enough. Without the capability of some safe indoor dining, our restaurants’ long-term prospects are bleak, and we chip away – bit by bit – at the American dream.”

According to IDPH, restaurants represent 4% of the total COVID-19 outbreak locations since July 1.

Incoming IRA Board Chairman Sam Sanchez said, “Restaurants employ more people than any other industry in Illinois,” he added. We know how to operate safely, perhaps more than any other industry. Yet we were the first to be shut down during mitigations and will now be the last to even partially reopen – to the brink of collapse. It is imperative that our state’s leaders take action now. We need to get our teams back to work.”

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