BELLEVILLE, Ill. – Belleville’s Corner Chill & Grill is empty inside now since Illinois’ ban on indoor dining more than two weeks ago. The owners don’t know how much longer they will survive as they explain how tempting it is to break the rules.
“I have a lot of people who leave because we follow the guidelines,” owner Cassandra Staley said.
Staley watches her tables and chairs collect dust while she says some competitors seem to benefit from breaking the rules
“They’re booming. They’re getting their dream come true right now – businesses that would barely have 15-20 people daily are getting 15-20 people hourly right now,” she said.
This business was Staley’s dream when she was a union laborer. She found an old rundown building five years ago and called her brother Paul.
“He said, ‘What do you want to do?’ And I said, ‘You know – our dream.’ And he said, ‘Ah, I don’t know about that,’ but he came quickly on board,” Staley said.
They’re also united on following Illinois’ lock down rules.
Paul Staley Jr. said it’s a difficult thing to bear, even as customers recognize they’re doing the right thing.
“It is very hard and we get people calling us now, saying they are glad we are doing things right and they’re on board with us doing things right,” he said. “So, it’s just hard tying to fight everything else and everybody else.”
St. Clair County businesses are so divided that they’re reporting each other to the health department – even without evidence. The Staleys got a visit after a competitor claimed they were allowing inside dining, but after a visit Tuesday, the health department wrote them a certificate saying they found no violations.
“I don’t know if these chairs have been pulled down except to be wiped because my girls…our business is so bad, what else do they have to do?” Cassandra Staley said.
FOX 2 pulled inspection records from the St. Clair County Health Department showing nearly 60 inspections of various businesses over the last couple weeks. Twenty-three of the visits resulted in violation reports, noting businesses allowed inside dining or employees not wearing masks.
The Staleys say there are many more businesses than listed on the report who are defying Illinois’ orders and profiting from it.
They have an outside tent, which is extremely challenging on windy days like Thursday. They fear it will only get worse when it’s cold.
“I don’t want to lose my business. My brother and I have worked so hard on this,” Cassandra Staley said. “We don’t want to lose…I don’t want to lose my staff either. So now we’re put in a position. What do we do?”
(St. Clair County Inspections: Note that inspectors only confirmed violations in fewer than half of the inspections. Check the column titled “outcome” for those businesses in which the inspection was completed with a finding by inspectors. For example, Corner Chill & Grill is on the list of being inspected, but the ‘outcome’ found ‘no violations’ as indicated in a certificate the business received the day after the inspection)