Downtown Huntley comes alive as businesses reopen

Downtown Huntley was filled with shoppers and diners alike Friday as many businesses reopened.

Some local residents couldn't wait to get back out into the world for a meal with friends or a cold beer.

"I've been waiting for this," Ryan Kent of Huntley said. "I just missed going out with my friends and hanging out with them, so it's cool to be able to do that. … It's good to just feel a little bit normal again I guess."

He said he looked forward to some much-needed socialization at one of his favorite spots, Parkside Pub in downtown Huntley.

"It's felt like forever, even though it's only been a few months," Kent said.

Barbara and James Donnelly, residents of the Huntley Springs retirement community, were out Friday to enjoy some ice cream in downtown Huntley's Town Square. As a couple in their 80s, James Donnelly said the two have been "very fortunate" not to have been affected by the pandemic thus far, but remain cautious when they go out.

For the past two months, many of Huntley's pubs, breweries and restaurants have worked to sustain themselves on revenue from delivery and curbside pickup orders.

The staff of Pub 47 built outdoor tables and a patio fence by hand, working through the rain this past week to finish in time for the Friday reopening, manager Jordan Threloff said.

The first row of parking spaces in front of the building now serves as a makeshift outdoor space for guests.

In downtown Huntley's Town Square, the staff of Parkside Pub and BBQ King are used to serving customers outside. With outdoor spaces and patio furniture at the ready, general manager of BBQ King's Huntley location, Collin Beck, said it felt like they were just reopening their patio for summer like any other year.

"All we had to do was just some finishing touches," Beck said. "We didn't have to build anything or use up space in the parking lot."

Guidelines have made it a bit different, however, he said. All the restaurant's servers are required to wear masks, guests are provided with hand sanitizer before they are seated, and some of the patio's tables have been removed to ensure they are 6 feet apart.

The state's safety guidelines also restrict the size of groups to a maximum of six people.

Parkside Pub had a similarly smooth transition, but decided to rent a restroom on wheels as an added COVID-19 precaution so that guests wouldn't have to enter the building, Michelle McConnell, a server/bartender at the restaurant, said.

Retail shops, personal care services and many offices also were able to reopen. This includes the American Legion's Huntley chapter.

Longtime members Joel Garchie and Scott Fisher came out to sit on the Huntley Legion's patio Friday to enjoy the sunshine and a cigar. The American Legion provides support to U.S. veterans, and the two have been eager to reconnect with other members, Fisher said.

"We would come here almost daily to meet and talk," he said. "We would come and have a sandwich and talk and catch up and see what everyone needs. … We look out for one another, so it's nice to be back."

The Huntley Legion opened its bar for outdoor seating at 3 p.m. Friday. Local veterans now can return to their favorite hangout spot with some modifications for safety.

The village of Huntley placed picnic tables in the grass of the Town Square and in parking lots around the downtown area as overflow seating for local businesses. As restaurants hit their capacity limits, customers can order to-go items and still enjoy them outdoors.