Restaurant owner says she followed the rules but can’t hang on any longer

FOX Files

BELLEVILLE, Ill. – A Belleville, Illinois restaurant and bar owner says she will now ignore the indoor dining ban.

FOX 2 first featured Belleville’s Corner Chill and Grill in November when reporting on losing business to rule breakers.

Cassandra Staley says following the rules has gotten her, “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

Staley said she just turned herself into the health department, warning them she’s now going to break the indoor dining rules.

“I told them I’ll still follow all mitigations as far as the 25 percent occupancy, the closing at 11 p.m., the social distancing and the mask wearing for my employees, but I was opening my doors,” she said. “Because if we do not open our doors, we aren’t going to make it much longer. I told them, I said, ‘I’m done.’ I can’t do this anymore.”

Staley believes she’s one of the few St. Clair County businesses still closed inside.

“These other places that are defying it, they’ve been open every single day,” she said.

George’s Pub in East Carondelet had its food and liquor licenses suspended in early December for defying the indoor dining ban, yet the owner told me today he’s continuing to operate in defiance as if nothing’s happened.

Moore’s Restaurant in Belleville had its occupancy permit revoked Dec. 8 for defying the indoor dining ban. Moore’s owner says they’re also continuing to operate in defiance – with no further consequence.

Attorney Tom DeVore said defiant restaurants have found strength in numbers.

“The pressure from these businesses is so overwhelming and the publicity is so getting so bad that the health department is back peddling,” DeVore said.

FOX 2 checked with the St. Clair County Health Department to see what actions it’s taken since its November crackdown that generated this list of dozens of violators. A health department spokesperson told me they’ve taken no actions since then.

The health department wrote it “has not issued any other violations since the list you received on Nov. 13, 2020,” adding, “We continue to follow up on complaints with calls to those businesses to discuss the guidance and mitigations with them.”

Staley says the health department told her no one will come out in person.

“I said so basically when you call – you are going to ask me – am I following the mitigations and you want me to lie and say, ‘Yep we’re following everything,’ then it’s just ok? Goodbye?” she said. “I said no, I’m telling you the honest-to-God truth, this is what we’re going to do. I am going to open my doors and we will follow everything except the dine in.”

FOX 2 will monitor what happens to Staley, as well as the businesses who’ve been defying orders for months. Some have pending court hearings despite remaining open for now. We’ll be there for the first hearing set for Feb. 4.

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