Local restaurant owners frustrated with ‘mixed messages’ from health department

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Business owners are now voicing their frustrations over the uncertainty the changing COVID-19 rules have created. Some tell us that keeping their doors open is tough enough during a pandemic and the confusion is only adding to their concerns.

Local restaurant owners are frustrated with what they call mixed messaged about being able to re-open for indoor dining.

“The rules and mitigation and follow-through has been as clear as mud,” said Cio Bella Italian Kitchen Owner Scott Frank.

Frank says he had customers inside the restaurant Friday and Saturday last week.

“We did not know we were breaking any rules. We thought it was very clear- open up Thursday night, take reservations, space them out, 90 minutes,” said Frank.

Frank says he ordered food for this week under the impression a small number of customers were allowed indoors.

“It’s so frustrating to try and manage your inventory levels. We’re throwing away food every day. We’re throwing away produce. We’re throwing away steaks. We’re dumping soup down the drain. Because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

The Winnebago County Health Department clarified Tuesday that the guidance is for meetings and social events only–not indoor dining for the public.

“There are literally ten different messages that are being sent to restaurant owners, and we’re supposed to be the ones doing the right thing and carrying the weight of doing a good job for the community, and we just need more and clear communication on what the rules are and are not,” said another business owner, Joshua Binning.

Binning owns Lucha Cantina in Rockford. He says he was ready to bring back some of his staff to help with indoor dining and now won’t be able to.

“Instead of saying ‘come back to work,’ now it’s once again sending an email to the staff saying we still don’t have work for you right now because we thought we could be open this weekend, but we can’t be open this weekend. So, it’s been a mixed message for business owners and an even harder mixed message for staff,” Binning said.

“Unfortunately, them trying to help us last Thursday turned into a massive disaster,” Frank added.

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