St. Clair County restauranteurs worried they can’t survive double dose of COVID, cold weather


ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. – The Illinois governor may say “no” but St. Clair County is not giving up in its push to open restaurants so customers can dine inside.

Restaurants owners have two things to worry about: the impending cold weather and COVID-19.

“This is the coldest day we’ve seen going into fall you can kind of see tables aren’t filled,” said Bennie Parr, owner of Bennie’s Pizza Pub.

Who’s going to eat outside when it’s freezing? Winter may be make-or-break for eateries and bars.

Illinois is divided up into COVID regions. St. Clair says if the state only examined their county coronavirus numbers and not did not include other counties in their region, St. Clair would qualify to have inside dining.

“Some counties are having a tough time bringing down their positivity rates down,” said St. Clair County Health Department Director Barb Hohlt.

People who operate establishments in Belleville think it’s only fair for St. Clair County to be counted alone.

“It’s the only way we’ll stay in business,” said Mary Gutzler, manager of Copperfire Restaurant.

Governor J.B. Pritzker said no to the proposal on Wednesday.

“It’s not a good idea in my view to break this down to 102 counties in the state of Illinois,” he said.

But St. Clair is not giving up.

“We’re still pushing forward, pushing for it; absolutely, we will continue to do so,” Hohlt said.

However, the Monroe County Health Department is calling foul. When they’re numbers were low they didn’t try it to go it alone.

“We didn’t come out and say, did not come out and say publicly, ‘Hey, we want to be on our own and the rest of the counties are not doing as well as we are.’ That’s not helping anybody,” said John Wagner, administrator for the Monroe County Health Department.

Stuck in the middle are the restaurants with owners wondering how long can they make it before they have to close their doors.

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