Oak Park 'losing patience' with restaurants serving indoors

Pavlicek says village has authority to act

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Melissa Elsmo and Stacey Sheridan

Oak Park Eats Editor and Staff Reporter

Oak Park's village employees eat lunch and, says Village Manager Cara Pavlicek, when they are picking up a sandwich they are also observing if local restaurants are following the state directive against any form of indoor dining or drinking due to the sharp spike in COVID.

In an interview Monday, Pavlicek said village staff is acting on complaints from citizens and their own observations to enforce Gov. J.B. Pritzker's ban on indoor dining and drinking. 

"We still believe in progressive discipline" for violators, said Pavlicek. That process begins with visits from restaurant inspectors or police commanders informing owners of violations. A warning can follow and then a formal "cease and desist" order from the village. Pavlicek said the interim public health director has authority to close restaurants entirely until they agree to comply.

"We are clear that we have this authority," she said. 

The village's legal department has also responded to a local restaurant, which said it had found a "loophole" in the state's action allowing it to book private parties indoors. Pavlicek said there is no such loophole.

She added that the village understands the dire circumstances local restaurants face. "Restaurants are in a terrible position," she said. The village wants to work to boost curbside pickup, to extend outdoor dining as long as might be tolerable with colder weather. 

But she said outdoor tents with flaps down on four sides does not pass muster. Eating indoors is absolutely unsafe, she said, and "our patience is running out" with restaurants not following the rules. She pointed to the "exponential growth" of COVID cases in Oak Park over the past 30 days. 

"It is just shocking." 

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Reader Comments

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Bill Maxwell  

Posted: November 19th, 2020 11:24 AM

Jeff Schroeder Arizona finally had to close down for a month and the cases drastically dropped. Then they reopened and the cases are moving back up. Same with other State's. The problem is local government is appears to be more concerned about doing something wrong then doing the right thing which is to push back the chair from their desks and go out to every business currently open and stop in. What you want to look for is hand sanitizers after a customer opens a door. You want to observe if all employees are wearing a mask. If all passes, then you make a check mark on the list and move on to he next business. Not just restaurants, you check every business, and you continue doing this everyday. This is not something that can be wished away or it will get better once it burns out. This requires really effort and dedication to make sure nothing is missed. If after doing this intensified daily inspections after one month does not keep the virus low then you will know as a fact if he efforts were beneficial or not. As of now, there are none, or very minimal inspections being done. So set it up as a quasimilitary mission. If you need volunteers, then ask for them and it takes about 1 hour of training to teach what to look for and how to act. There does not even need interaction between volunteers and businesses. The report comes back and an official follows up. That is how you take care of a Pandemic. You do no avoid phone calls and you get out in the field. You are protecting civilian's, hospital staff, Police Officer's, FireFighters, and many other people who have to respond to a possible exposure scenario. Catch it before it spreads any further

Harpo Hosek  

Posted: November 19th, 2020 10:10 AM

Let's not mince words. It's Cajun Boil and Bake that's having huge unmasked gatherings indoors in the wake of the indoor dining ban. I will not spend a penny at their establishment and will celebrate when they're out of business.

KJ Knight from OAK PARK  

Posted: November 19th, 2020 9:57 AM

While I understand how serious this problem is I would like to know how to get the village to investigate other business's like Chase Bank on Lake Street. When I walked into the their lobby yesterday I counted no fewer than 4 personal/private bankers sitting in the lobby without masks on. Although I directly asked one of them to put his mask on he mumbled something under his breadth and then looked away just like everyone else sitting around him. I did report this to the branch manager who has so far refused to do anything to rectify the situation.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: November 19th, 2020 9:45 AM

Remarkably Illinois and its surrounding states have become the epi-center of the pandemic. Look at the daily deaths by state and it is staggering how bad we are doing. Arizona, Texas, Florida, California, all the previous hot spots are recovering and Illinois is getting worse. We lead the nation in rules and attention given to this problem, but none of that seems to matter.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal Wednesday Journal Employee

Posted: November 19th, 2020 9:07 AM

Wednesday Journal publishes a weekly print and digital listing of restaurants and their takeout menus. Full page print ad. Email to our very large list of local readers. Cost to a restaurant for participating is $25. Does not cover the cost of the newsprint. A week ago with unusually good November weather Wednesday Journal threw together a free email listing of restaurants which had reopened their patios. Wednesday Journal publishes the OakParkEats.com website which is the definitive source for local restaurant news. Wednesday Journal is participating in a new effort called Takeout25OakPark which encourages locals to order takeout weekly. And, then, yes, we do cover the news related to COVID and its intersection with restaurants.

Marianne Zapotocny  

Posted: November 19th, 2020 8:25 AM

The Wednesday Journal could help restaurants. Why not devote the next issue to publishing carry-out menus, hours, delivery options, pictures of restaurant owners and/or chefs, etc.? Controversy, criticism, and conflict should not always be the focus of a community newspaper.The Journal can be a pro-Oak Park voice right now.

Bill Maxwell  

Posted: November 19th, 2020 12:26 AM

Jen Purrenhage that is kind of you to thank the health department although if they would have returned my calls about what was going on at least 2 months ago, I would like to think we would not be where we are at now. I called Oak Park's very own health department, Cook County health department up to IDPH. I can not be the only person who knew what was coming so there should be another reason why everyone let it get out of control again. Sometimes input from others can have value. It is not telling another how to do their job, it is just making a person aware of something they may have over looked. Remember to sanitize your hands when using parking meters and opening doors to businesses. Simple process to do until we have a vaccine

Al Rossell  

Posted: November 19th, 2020 12:05 AM

I can sympathize with a restaurant owner paying big rents, insurance and staff but many are following the ban on indoor dining. Those that chose not to follow the rules are not being fair to their fellow competitors. They should have their business license suspended for a period of days. I also intend to no longer frequent those places once they re-open. A list of violators for my records would be welcome.

Jen Purrenhage  

Posted: November 18th, 2020 10:20 PM

Thank you to our health department staff. It's a heartbreaking choice, but recent studies continue to show that indoor restaurant dining is a vector for outbreaks.

William Dwyer Jr. from Oak Park  

Posted: November 18th, 2020 9:51 PM

The crisis is already here, T. Mac. Lunch is optional. Wake up.

Bill Maxwell  

Posted: November 18th, 2020 9:49 PM

Richard Gorman, It is difficult for restaurants although I can not understand how restaurants were not following CDC guidelines or how inspectors in different towns were allowing it to happen and now they are closed again. There are restaurants still open in towns and local and State Government is responsible for citizens health during a Pandemic. That is not an easy part for any person responsible for the safety of citizens although that comes with the job. I have been in many when they reopened, and they must have thought they were following the CDC guidelines although they were not and the health departments were no were to be found. I know of a restaurant that did an excellent job at following the guidelines and they had to close because they did what was asked of them and they are far from having much money to hold them over. Maybe patrons can donate money each month to the restaurants. No gift cards because when they reopen that will only put them behind. Also, if there is Federal money available, and local general fund money, that may be helpful. Sure, it is a lot to ask, although many comments are about saving the restaurants. There is a National clothing store failing at adhering to CDC guidelines and nothing is being done so there is a problem with the health departments in this State. Ms. Pavlicek is going to have to enforce what she can enforce to save many so citizens can go back and enjoy. I know people said in the beginning this was not going to be a big deal. Well it is, and it is difficult for everyone, and the hospitals intake is rising quickly. We know we can lower levels and may have to do more seesawing until the vaccine is ready and this time lets all do better, especially local governments in towns

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: November 18th, 2020 9:48 PM

Clearly, she doesn't understand the dire situation they are in. When the weather was much more outdoor dining friendly, the village refused to stop their construction on Lake St. Is the village waiving any licensing fees? Is the village providing any property tax relief? Is the village assisting restaurants with PPE applications? Ms. Pavlicek is losing her patience while her constituents are losing their livelihoods. Which would you rather lose?

Richard Fischer from Oak Park  

Posted: November 18th, 2020 9:42 PM

I don't understand how Pritzker stands up at his press conferences and tells everyone to stay indoors isolated, closes bars and restaurants but he can leave his quarantine after only 2 days to stroll down Halsted St through crowds of people both masked and unmasked out celebrating Biden's winning of his election. This blowhard should follow what he preaches. Makes people wonder if he knows what he's talking about.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 18th, 2020 9:18 PM

Apparently there is only going to be a crisis when the village employees no longer have anyplace to buy their lunch. How about actually doing something instead of just wanting to work on it. Does anyone have the authority to do that?

Richard Gorman  

Posted: November 18th, 2020 8:43 PM

Well, Ms. Pavlicek, fortunate that you can be so righteous with a guaranteed paycheck throughout the COVID pandemic. Like many government employees, teachers, et al, the pain of shutdowns and various government edicts are abstractions you can't relate to. Reading your comments make me think of Orwell's 1984; not necessarily a negative in your version of 2020 Oak Park. Small business, restaurants and others are trying to survive. Along with property owners, they pay your salary. They don't have a guaranteed income from the village like you do. They have to earn it under any circumstance. Perhaps you can try to be more aware of circumstances the rest of us are trying to deal with.

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