PJ's Courthouse Tavern, called out by IDPH for defying indoor dining ban, temporarily closes after employee contracts COVID-19

SYCAMORE – Two Sycamore eateries announced temporary closures Sunday after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, including PJ's Courthouse Tavern, which has remained open for indoor dining despite the ongoing ban mandated by the state.

In a social media post Sunday, PJ's Courthouse Tavern, 202 W. State St., announced its doors will close to deep clean, with an unknown reopen date as of now, after an employee tested positive.

"As you all know, PJs has remained open during these times to continue to serve our families, friends and neighbors," the post reads. "In spite of the fact that we have been taking all precautions to ensure the safety and health of our customers and staff. We were recently informed that one of our employees had tested positive for COVID-19. With this news, we have made the decision to close until further notice."

Also in Sycamore, Ski's All American Pub, 1001 W. State St., which has not been called out for any indoor dining ban defiance, announced late Sunday in a social media post it will also close temporarily due to the same reason.

"The health and safety of our employees, friends, families and the community is our top concern," the post states. "We have been notified that one of our staff members has tested positive for COVID-19. We have made the difficult decision to temporarily close until further notice. Thank you for your support during this pandemic. We will use this time to ensure our staff is tested and cleared to return to a safe work environment. We hope to reopen soon and will update as we know more."

To date, Ski's has not been cited by the DeKalb County Health Department or the Illinois Department of Public Health for any defiance of the indoor dining ban, which went into effect Oct. due to a surge in coronavirus cases regionally.

PJ's, however, is listed on the county health department's mitigation enforcement list for defying the ban, meant to curb continued community spread. On Oct. 27, PJ's was sent a letter of non-compliance by the IDPH.

The Sunday post by PJ's says they'll use this time to deep clean the restaurant and bar, and ensure all staff are tested for the viral respiratory disease.

"In order to ensure the safety of our families, friends, and the community, all employees will b tested before returning to work," the post states. "We will take this opportunity to deeply clean the establishment following the IDPH guidelines."

The tavern has also been subject to local enforcement consequences related to indoor dining in July prior to the current indoor dining ban. In July, DeKalb County Health Department officials pulled its food permit for three hours until its premises came under compliance, including capacity limits for dining imposed according to the Restore Illinois plan.

Mitigations mandated by Gov. JB Pritzker and the IDPH began Oct. 3 as a result of rising cases, with restaurants and bars bearing the brunt of strict shutdowns. Since Oct. 3, bars and restaurants have been prohibited from allowing indoor dining, and are also limited to groups of 10 or fewer, with tables limited to six or fewer for outdoor dining.

Pushback from local business owners has been strong across both DeKalb County and the region, with many declaring further shutdowns would mean the end of their livelihoods.

According to newly-released data by the IDPH, in the state of Illinois, bars and restaurants are linked to the second highest rate of exposure for COVID-19 cases. In DeKalb County's region (which includes Winnebago, Sauk Valley, etc.), they're the fourth highest.

On Sunday, PJ's thanked their supporters.

"Thank you for understanding and respecting this decision," the post states. "Maintaining a safe, reliable environment has always been top priority in our business over the past 26 years. We thank you for your support. Stay safe and we will see you soon."

Kelsey Rettke

Kelsey Rettke is the editor of the Daily Chronicle, part of Shaw Media and DeKalb County's only daily newspaper devoted to local news, crime and courts, government, business, sports and community coverage. Kelsey also covers breaking news for Shaw Media Local News Network.