Restaurant owners debate reopening for limited-capacity indoor dining

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Indoor dining will be allowed at 25% capacity for restaurants beginning Sunday, January 3.

Sangamon County public health officials announced they would defy state restrictions last week, prompting Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder to say he doesn’t want the city’s restaurants to reopen January 3rd with the rest of the county, but he wouldn’t stop them.

Owners said they’re conflicted on how much business a 25% seating capacity could actually bring in.

Mike Coffey, the owner of Saputo’s and Papa Frank’s, said he would open without a second thought.

“The reality of the restaurant business is that you are not jam-packed full all the time anyway,” Coffey said. “So sometimes you may only have 25% full anyhow.

Coffey said he was looking forward to being able to compete with other restaurants in Central Illinois that have defied state restrictions without punishment from local health departments.

“What’s really difficult is you go down to Litchfield and they are allowing indoor dining,” Coffey said. “You go to Taylorville and they have indoor dining. So, we are surrounded by places that allow it and in Springfield, you don’t.”

The county’s move is in direct defiance to the state’s rules.

Business owners like Michael Higgins, the owner of Maldaner’s, see the reopening as premature. He’s worried it could jeopardize the full reopening down the road.

“They should have understood the things they put in place in Sangamon County have been bringing our numbers down in the county,” Higgins said. “There’s a reason they aren’t coming down in the rest of Region 3.”

While indoor dining will be open, all restaurants will have to shut down their dining rooms by 9:00 p.m.

Langfelder did warn that the state could revoke money given to small businesses if they defy the state’s restrictions.

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