Numerous businesses were able to open and expand their services in DeKalb County with the start of Phase 4 of Gov. JB Pritzker's Restore Illinois plan on Friday.
Restaurants were one industry most heavily impacted by the start of the new phase. Under Phase 4, indoor dining and drinking is permitted for parties of up to 10 people, and tables must be spaced six feet apart
Bill Hristakos, owner of Ellwood Steak and Fish House in DeKalb, said that the new phase "is great, and much-needed for the restaurant business."
"Sit-down restaurants have been hurt the most by [the regulations,]" he said. "We're looking forward to welcoming our customers back."
To increase social distancing, decorative flower vases have been added to tables not in use, both customers and restaurant staff wear masks and chairs and tables have a thorough sanitation and cleaning between guests.
"We take health and safety very seriously," Hristakos said. "We want to ensure our customers have good food and their health protected."
Jesus Romero, the owner of Taxco Mexican Cuisine in Sycamore, said he looks forward to "celebrating special occasions" with his customers after not being able to celebrate Cinco de Mayo or his restaurant's 28th anniversary on June 1.
"It's not like it used to be, but something is better than nothing," Romero said. "I've missed seeing my friends, my customers. It was so sad to see the restaurant's tables empty for so long. I'm excited to see people inside again, to see people eating our food, happy, celebrating."
Taxco has added a patio in the back of the restaurant and cafe seating on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant to allow for additional customers. The restaurant's three storefront windows can be 90% removed to allow fresh air inside.
In addition to restaurants and bars expanding to allow indoor seating, other local businesses and nonprofit organizations, including Tails Humane Society in DeKalb, could open under Phase 4. Museums, zoos, day camps, seated theaters, cinemas, performing art centers, offices and manufacturing can also open under Phase 4 with limited capacity.
Pritzker said returning to normalcy isn't until Phase 5, however.
"Until we have a vaccine or an effective treatment or enough widespread immunity that new cases fail to materialize, the option of returning to normalcy doesn't exist."