Local restaurants and bars welcome customers back with outdoor dining

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) ─ After more that two months of Stay at Home, Illinoisans can now look forward to a night out for dinner.

It is a day local restaurant owners have been gearing up for.

“It feels amazing, you know,” said GreenFire Owner, Shendet Ismhalha. “We have been waiting for this day for awhile now and it’s really awesome that we can do it today.”

Friday, dishes were once again served to eager dine-in guests across the Forest City.

“It’s been exciting and emotional. Customers that have been supporting us for 15 years have been just coming in to say hello, just going out of their way to say hello,” said RBI Bar and Grill Owner, Andy Rio. “It’s amazing.”

To follow regulations, customers can expect tents to be set-up in most restaurant parking lots.

“We started thinking about it ahead of time,” said Ismhalha. “So, we contacted the people about the tent, so we just moved forward right away.”

“We basically moved everything we had inside and we moved it outside,” said Rio. “So, right now, we’re at about 140 seats outside. 60 seats underneath the tent. Rain or shine, we have 60 seats underneath the tent.”

The transition to serving guests again hasn’t been easy.

“From Wednesday to now, it’s kind of been a non-stop rush figuring out how we can do all this and keep people safe and keep our employees rolling and our business alive and thriving,” said Lino’s Restaurant Owner, Charlie Schweinler.

Most restaurants will still offer a curbside pick up option for customers who do not feel comfortable dining in just yet.

“When we were trying to figure out how we do outdoor dining, we had a hard time figuring it all out, because we did not want to affect curbside,” said Schweinler. “We know there’s still a lot of people that don’t feel comfortable coming out and dining out and I completely understand that.”

“We were doing curbside pickup and delivery, that was great, but this is greater,” added Ismhalha.

Most restaurants suggest calling ahead before heading out for the night. That allows staff to keep crowds under control.

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