11 Will and Kankakee chambers still waiting on response from Pritzker

It's been a week since 11 chambers of commerce sent a letter to the governor seeking answers about restrictions on restaurants and bars in Will and Kankakee counties.

No answers yet.

"The only response I've gotten is that the letter has been received," Michael Paone, director of government affairs for the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said Thursday.

Whether they hear back or not, chambers want Gov. JB Pritzker to know mandates that have restricted some restaurant business to a trickle are not being accepted on face value as needed measures in the fight against COVID-19.

"Everybody's banding together and standing up and seeking more information," Paone said.

Last week, restaurants and bars in Will and Kankakee counties, which constitute District 7 in the state's COVID-19 tracking map, had to stop indoor business, lower the numbers of people they could serve at one time, and close by 11 p.m.

The restrictions were put in place because of high positivity rates in testing for COVID-19 in the two counties.

The rates since have gone up, and another concern is the possibility of tighter restrictions when the state reviews District 7 again next week.

The letter sent last week sought an explanation for why restaurants and bars are bearing the brunt of the business burden in the pandemic control measures.

Chambers and business owners are looking for "fact-based evidence" that indoor dining and drinking is a bigger contributor to COVID-19 spread than big-box stores, supermarkets and other places where people gather, Paone said.

They also want restaurants and bars to be allowed at the head of the line when more relief funds are available for business.

"In the first round there was a lottery process," Paone said. "We would hope that these places, because of unfair conditions, would be given consideration rather than just going through a lottery process."

Don Williams owns Syl's Restaurant in Rockdale and a banquet business that operates at the Renaissance Center in Joliet.

He hasn't done a banquet since Feb. 29.

"I've got one business that's doing 0% of what it should be doing," Williams said. "I've got a restaurant that's doing 30% of what it should be doing. But everyone wants their money, including the governor."

Williams does not believe the governor will respond the the chambers. But he is working with Paone to at least set up a meeting with local legislators for answers questions bothering him and others.

"Can they prove that this increase (in COVID-19 positivity) is because of bars and restaurants?" Williams asked. "This is the information that they won't share."