While George’s Restaurant was the single Oak Park restaurant the village identified Wednesday as violating the governor’s ban on in-door dining, several other restaurateurs in Oak Park had strong feelings and deep worries about this latest setback.
Delia’s Kitchen: 1034 Lake St.
“I am angry. This is horrible,” said owner Veronica Ciobotaru.
She was caught off guard by the short notice leading up to the second dining room closure. Now, after bringing employees back to work, she is going to have to let them go again.
“My employees are upset and my customers are very confused,” said Ciobotaru. “I am thinking about defying the order actually. I am really debating it. I called the (Oak Park) health department today to ask what they could do to me if I stayed open. I am waiting to hear back.”
After maintaining social distancing in the dining room, investing in plexiglass partitions, wearing masks and monitoring temperatures Ciobotaru is questioning the pressure being placed on restaurants.
“If someone wants to come in to eat they should be able to come in. Who is he [Pritzker] to make this decision? Did he take into consideration this is our livelihood? I don’t think we will survive this second round. We are just catching up from the first dining room closure.”
Cucina Paradiso: 814 North Blvd.
“Last week I was saying the next three months are critical for restaurants, but now I am saying the next three weeks will determine their ability to survive,” said owner Anthony Gambino. “If restaurants cannot convert dining room dollars into take-out dollars, they are going to be seriously behind the eight ball. This is beyond serious.”
Gambino has been following all the CDC guidelines and recommendations from the governor and even installed an air purification system in his North Blvd. eatery and now he cannot open his restaurant to diners.
“In situations like this my brain says it is cheaper not to be open, but my heart says we have a lot of employees who have been with me for many years who have families who count on this business,” he said.
He noted that at Burger Moovement in Elmwood Park, a second restaurant owned by his family, guests can come into to use the gaming machines, but cannot eat a burger. Cucina Paradiso, he said, had a wedding scheduled for this Saturday — they had bought out the restaurant for a small wedding with 50 people. “She was in tears when we had to cancel,” he said.
“If legal action were to develop, I would certainly listen and consider it,” said Gambino.
Kettlestrings Tavern: 800 S. Oak Park Ave.
“How can I not be optimistic? We opened two days before this whole thing started and we’ve made it this far. As a country we will get past this,” said owner Rob Guenther.
Guenther expressed concern that customers may be experiencing “take-out fatigue” or may not be in the same financial position as they were in the spring leaving less disposable income available for restaurant meals this time around. To combat these concerns Kettlestrings intends to shorten up hours and partner with community non-profits to incentivize diners to order.
“We are going to keep our outdoor patio open as long as possible and aim to do a lot more delivery and carry out,” said Guenther.