Grafton, Ill. business owners excited to reopen


GRAFTON, Ill. – Grafton, Illinois is a community that relies on tourism to keep its economy strong. COVID-19 and flooding have been extremely hard on restaurants and stores there.

The Loading Dock Bar and Grill in Grafton is lucky. Most of its seating is outside. But they still had to reduce the number of seats from 800 to 600 to maintain social distancing.

“It feels very safe,” said customer Kristin DePalma. “I feel like everyone’s a good distance away from each other.”

Long-time customers like Donna Pelley have been itching to get back here.

“I’ve been missing the opportunity to sit down and enjoy a great meal,” she said.

The town was hit by a flood last year. They had not yet recovered from that and then the coronavirus crisis occurred. Will businesses like The Loading Dock close?

“Barely, this has cut bad. The bills keep coming whether you’re open or not,” said Peter Allen, co-owner. “Funds were definitely running short. Yeah, we’re just lucky.”

Other businesses in town may not be as fortunate. Grafton gets 60 percent of its revenue from tourism.

“I think had it gone any later it would be a serious situation for us,” said Grafton Mayor Rick Eberlin.

The mayor doesn’t like the way the state is treating Raging Rivers waterpark. It was closed because of flooding last year. And now it cannot open until the end of next month. It’s outdoors, it’s hot, and there’s chlorine in use, factors the mayor says makes the waterpark safe.

Raging Rivers is an economic generator for Grafton. After people go to the waterpark, they go into town for a meal or even stay the night.

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