Officials handling complaints against businesses for not complying to Phase 4 guidelines

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Public officials are cracking down on businesses after the first weekend of Phase 4. It meant new freedoms, but those came with limitations, which some didn’t seem to follow.

Now public health districts are getting complaints about businesses that aren’t following the rules. In Champaign County alone, there were around 10 complaints filed against businesses. Those were about either about a lack of social distancing or a lack of masks.

Photos circulated over the weekend of crowds at Campustown bars Red Lion and Joe’s Brewery. Both pictures show groups gathered close together without masks.

Large crowd gathered at Red Lion Saturday night, photo provided
Large gathered at Joe’s Brewery Friday night, photo provided

“I’m not surprised at all,” said student Jaslyn Rios, who says the pictures raised a red flag for her. “I know that here, when I’m on campus at least, I’m taking my safety precautions and just to know there’s other people that are kindof ignoring the still effective safety precautions, it’s kindof worriesome.”

Around 10 complaints were filed about businesses over the weekend. Public health officials say they mostly involved bars. They are following up.

“We just try to work through the problem, find out what the barriers are, find out how we can help them to comply,” said Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Director of Environmental Health Awais Vaid. But by the fourth or fifth complaint, he says they will try some harsher enforcement. One possibility is suspending a business’ health permit.

“Our enforcement tools are few, and that’s one of the problems that we’re working on this week with city officials,” he explained. “If they’re not doing it themselves, they’re not taking corrective actions, they’re not trying, then we have to go and use other tools, and that would be enforcement tools.”

Health officials will be meeting with city and county leaders in the next week to come up with a plan.

Student Esparza says she urges all students to be as careful as possible, despite the easing restrictions.

“Just because right now, we’re going into Phase 4, doesn’t mean that the pandemic is over, and it doesn’t mean that we should ignore the rising cases that are happening in every state,” said student Nataly Esparza. “If we’re not careful, everything that we did by staying at home for three months is just gonna be thrown away.”

City and county leaders will be meeting later this week to come up with an enforcement plan. We reached out to the owners of Red Lion. They said they are following all protocols and had no other comment.

The owners of Joe’s Brewery say they are doing a lot to keep customers safe. That includes checking staff and customers’ temperatures, keeping everyone’s names and numbers for contact tracing and two staff members are being tested for COVID-19 every week. They sent us the following information in an email:

Here are some specifics we’ve implemented, some of which exceed State requirements.
– All staff members & customers are getting their temperature checked upon entry and denied access if they have a fever
– We are recording name and phone number of all patrons for contact tracing
– 2 staff members are being tested for covid-19 weekly with a plan in place if we have any positive tests
– Staff members are required to inform us of any travel away from Champaign to ensure it is being done safely or if they will quarantine after returning.
– Staff are required to wear masks and some wear gloves.  We have logo’d masks for any staff member or customer who may need one.
– We have no bar seating available and 20 tables spaced out for customers across our outdoor area.
– Our indoor areas are only being used for bathrooms and service bars to minimize wait times and congregations
– Our reduced capacity is monitored continuously for safety and we have frequently stopped letting patrons inside who are waiting to enter.
– We have dedicated staff members who are reminding customers about social distancing guidelines and separating groups when necessary
– We are holding weekly staff meetings to discuss any changes that need to be made during the upcoming week.

We are absolutely willing to do more, if asked. This could include pool testing, random testing or any other helpful practices as advised by public health professionals. 

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