City considers harsher penalties for businesses violating safety guidelines

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DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — City leaders are looking for new ways to enforce COVID-19 restrictions. They issued an emergency order yesterday. That’s after more than 60 people tested positive for the virus last weekend.

They’re looking into using licenses to keep businesses in line. Right now, it’s hard for them to find a way to really enforce guidelines, so they’re trying to establish real consequences for those who violate them.

“Certainly I think the mayor avoided this moment for as long as possible.”

But the moment finally came. Decatur Mayor Julie Wolfe has issued an emergency order for the city. That’s after 62 COVID-19 cases in Macon County this past weekend. Now, Decatur leaders are looking for more ways to punish those who aren’t being cautious.

“We see this as a result from is social gatherings, particularly bars and restaurants that are not complying with the guidelines,” said Decatur Deputy City Manager Jon Kindseth.

They’re considering doing this by adding language to licenses requirements for things like liquor and food service licenses. Basically – if a business isn’t following safety guidelines like social distancing, enforcing masks and capacity limits – they could face fines, license suspension and, in some cases, revocation.

“This is not a universal face covering mandate. This really is tailored to those business who get a license from the city,” Kindseth explained. Those standards will be based on guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Sliderz Bar and Grill and Woody’s owner Craig Wilson says he’s already practicing all safety protocols. “We’ve switched to all paper products for the serving trays. No glassware. Plastic cups on all the drinks. No draft beer. Disposable utensils for silverware.” But he’s feels cracking down on some businesses, like bars and restaurants should mean cracking down on all of them.

“It’s tough when you know, they don’t really have anything per se on the line, as much as someone like me who has a liquor license, food license, gaming license that I’m trying to follow all the rules,” he said.

The Decatur City Council will meet Monday to discuss those changes, as well as whether or not to extend the emergency order.

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