SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — When Governor Pritzker announced the state would enter the bridge phase this week. It brought a lot of good news for a wide range of businesses.
“The State of Illinois will move into the bridge phase of our mitigation plan, one step closer to removing nearly all of the remaining mitigations. For restaurants and bars and retail and weddings and public gatherings, this means higher capacity limits, and a very hopeful move toward full reopening,” Pritzker said during his announcement Thursday.
The bridge phase brings small capacity bumps for restaurants and bars, but the biggest winners are convention centers. Their capacity limits even during phase four were devastating, ut now, they can hold up to 60 percent or 1,000 people, whichever is lower — up from a max of 250 people during the the current phase.
“When I heard the bridge phase, and the possible move to phase five is a huge exhale, for sure, followed by an inhale because we know what’s coming with it with the pent up demand. But really, the bridge and possible phase five, allows the travel industry on the brink of collapse, by the way, an opportunity to rebound the summer,” Visit Springfield Director Scott Dahl said.
The large-scale events also bring economic salvation to other businesses, like tourism industries, and hotels. Both were also in shambles during the pandemic. Springfield is especially happy to see these events return, with a summer of tourism dollars ahead.
“Well, the hotel industry suffered their worst occupancy on record. And last year we ran 33% occupancy, we generally run about 55% occupancy. So we we missed out on approximately 300,000 room nights in 2020,” Dahl said. “And so yes, absolutely. We need these large scale events. We need our conventions to return.”