Local businesses react to loss of video gambling with state shutdown, capacity limits at stores

Owners not surprised by new guidelines

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The new Tier 3 COVID-19 mitigations that go into effect Friday could spell bad news for some business owners, especially those who generate revenue from video gambling.

Other smaller retail businesses, however, believe the restrictions won’t have much of an effect on them.

Mitigations announced Tuesday limit retailers, gyms and other businesses to 25% capacity, along with outright shutting down video gambling terminals. Grocery stores may operate at 50% capacity.

Shane Hill, who owns both B&R Grocery stores in Streator and Tuck’s tavern in Long Point, said gaming made the improvement in his businesses possible.

“Unfortunately, we have people around Illinois and in this town not following the rules and restrictions, and it cost the gaming revenue for everybody,” Hill said. “I believe that 100%, and I know that’ll ruffle some feathers, but we both know that’s what’s happening.”

Hill said both of his B&R stores, which also have gaming machines, require masks at all times and temperature checks to enter. These were measures he put in place to protect his employees and customers, even though it may have cost him a few customers, he said.

“The only reason we have two B&R stores is because the gaming has been so good to our company that we can keep this mom and pop store open,” Hill said.

For other retail businesses, such as Prairie Fox Books in downtown Ottawa, proprietors have been able to keep their doors open from day one by encouraging curbside services, which they will continue.

“This won’t affect us as much as it might others,” special eventsmanager Dylan Conmy said. “We’ll be able to keep our doors open and we’ve been encouraging curbside pickup from day one. We have very safe and strict protocols.”

Jeremy Reed, owner of That Guy’s Secret in La Salle, said he thought some limitations may be coming to retail stores, such as what was confirmed Tuesday.

“It was well-forecasted,” Reed said. “I kind of expected something like this to happen with the state of coronavirus right now.”

Reed said the 25% limitation would affect small businesses but that the mitigations are better than seeing a full shutdown like the state saw earlier in the year.

Small retail stores can function within the limitations, Reed said, because of the nature of their customers and storefronts.

“Us as smaller businesses are rarely in a situation where we have 20 people in our store at one time,” Reed said. “That’s not how we operate. We are a service-based industry and we provide a much more one-on-one shopping experience.”

Going back to video gambling, Hill said the money lost from gaming may be felt wider than just his businesses. He said the impact of the revenue can be seen all over town and has been a great help to Streator’s image, with newly renovated places like Jackpots and Cozy Corner.

From March to August 2020, Streator had seen a roughly $2 million loss in revenue from video gaming, which amounted to roughly $100,000 less in revenue to the city, according to a Times article in October.

“You take it away now, and you take away $100,000 from the city of Streator,” Hill said. “Now the city has to find a way to deal without that money. The governor told cities they need to follow the rules and now we can all guess what happened.”