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Update: DeKalb County businesses prepare for summer service amid Pritzker's change of plans

Gov. Pritzker amends Phase 3 restrictions on restaurants, recreation set to reopen in 9 days

DeKALB – The patio at Tom & Jerry’s of Sycamore has been roped off with caution tape since mid-March.

But in nine days on May 29, with the start of the third phase to reopen the state, the tape will be taken down and customers will be able to eat their food while sitting outside on the restaurant’s patio.

Due to ongoing state mandates from Gov. JB Pritzker's previous orders and the Restore Illinois plan outlined with public safety in mind from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Tom & Jerry’s of Sycamore/Catering by Diann,1670 DeKalb Avenue, has only been able to offer its food via drive-thru and delivery.

“We were super excited to hear that our patio can open,” General Manager Sarah Meyer said. “We’re looking forward to ripping the tape off and allowing our customers to dine outside on our patio. It’s one more opportunity to serve our customers so they don’t have to sit in their cars and eat.”

The patio at Tom & Jerry’s features picnic tables and patio tables with umbrellas. To follow the governor’s executive order, the patio furniture will be rearranged to accommodate the six-feet-apart social distancing rules.

“Our customers can enjoy the sunshine and warmer weather and have a side of Vitamin D with their gyros,” Meyer said. “It will also give everyone a sense of normalcy without compromising health and safety. We’ve already planted flowers outside on our patio, so it’s nice, welcoming and ready to go.”

Locals react

Less than 24 hours after DeKalb County business and municipal leaders urged Pritzker to ease restrictions on his phased plan to reopen the state, Pritzker said Tuesday he'll allow restaurants and bars to reopen as part of Phase 3 of his Restore Illinois plan, expected to begin in nine days, if they offer outdoor seating.

Including the new changes, Phase 3 would allow for campgrounds and boating in groups of 10 or fewer, and retail, barbershops and salons, and non-essential businesses and manufacturing to reopen under guidelines. Foursomes and carts for golfing will also be allowed as of Wednesday, and health clubs, gym and fitness studios can implement one-on-one training or outdoor fitness courses in groups of 10 or fewer. And all state parks will reopen, along with indoor and outdoor tennis facilities.

Shortly before his daily media briefing Tuesday, Pritzker withdrew his emergency rule which threatened a misdemeanor charge against businesses that reopened against his stay-at-home order.

He said if restaurants or bars don't have outside seating, they should confer with municipal leaders to determine how to accommodate that offering.

DeKalb business owner Cohen Barnes of Sundog IT, spoke on behalf of DeKalb County UNITES, a business coalition who also sent a letter to Pritzker, and said he's very excited that local establishments may get a chance to improve their situation.

"Small businesses have been kind of singled out in this process," Barnes said. "The thought that the small business couldn't be responsible in social distancing, but big box stores could is really unfair. So we're just really exited that so many small business now get the opportunity to increase their amount of revenue."

State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, has been vocal on social media throughout the week, imploring the governor to relinquish the emergency order threatening misdemeanors on business owners.

A bipartisan legislative committee was set to review the rule Wednesday morning. If accepted, the rule would have remained in effect for 150 days. The committee's discussion didn't make it that far, however.

"Thanks to all of you who called, e-mailed and made your voices heard, the governor has withdrawn his emergency rule threatening to punish small businesses with a Class A Misdemeanor for trying to protect their livelihoods and those of their employees," State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, said in an official statement.

Pritzker also said campgrounds will be allowed to reopen in Phase 3, another request put to him by the letter sent by DeKalb County Board Chairman Mark Pietrowski and Vice Chair John Frieders on behalf of 14 countywide mayors and township presidents Tuesday.

During the DeKalb County Board meeting Wednesday, not all were happy with the letter sent to Pritzker.

"Frankly I feel it was very inappropriate," said DeKalb member Paul Stoddard, who argued Pietrowski acted on behalf of the full board without proper approval."You sent it on county letterhead and signed it as chair. The county board did not discuss this, much less vote on it."

Pietrowski disagreed, and said the letter was meant to "create dialogue," not demands. The letter included a list of requests made to the governor, including reopening churches in Phase 3, a request not met as part of Wednesday's announcement.

Specific details regarding the amended Phase 3 guidelines remain unknown, such as whether restaurants and bars who do not currently have capacity for outdoor seating are able to place tables elsewhere.

In a statement sent out Wednesday, the DeKalb County Health Department said it expects further guidance from IDPH later this week.

"At this time, the local health departments do not have additional guidance from IDPH," the statement reads. "As soon as we receive additional guidance, we will share it with local businesses."

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