On Nov. 20, statewide implementation of Tier 3 COVID-19 mitigation measures went into effect, including a ban on indoor bar and restaurant service. A week later, Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld issued a warning to local establishments that they are expected to comply with the order.
Hofeld said a letter was sent to local restaurants on Friday, Nov. 27, after he received reports that several were continuing to serve customers indoors. He noted that most local establishments appear to be in compliance, but he wanted to make sure all owners are informed about the enforcement steps the village is prepared to take.
"I understand the hardship your business has endured during these times and I don't want to see any business close, not even temporarily," he said in the letter. "However, protecting the health and welfare of the public is my paramount responsibility."
Hofeld said if the village receives reports of restaurants or bars continuing to defy the Tier 3 requirements, Homewood police will be asked to investigate. Establishments found to be in violation will be issued a warning and must close immediately.
If additional violations occur, Hofeld said he would suspend the business owner's liquor license.
He encouraged restaurants to serve customers through carryout, curbside pickup and delivery services until the restrictions are eased. The Homewood village board recently extended its decision to not collect the Places for Eating tax from Homewood restaurants through November, December and January.
State restrictions on restaurant and bar service have been among the most controversial steps taken to control the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
During an October interview with the Chronicle, state Sen. Patrick Joyce, who represents Flossmoor and other south suburban communities, said restaurant owners in the 40th District told him the state's restrictions threatened the existence of their businesses.
He said some were willing to risk penalties for violating restrictions because the alternative was to permanently close.
Pritzker has said contact tracing data implicates restaurants and bars as places where people who congregate are more likely to test positive for COVID-19.
During the spring stay-at-home order, which closed all but essential businesses, Pritzker encouraged state police and local law enforcement officers to use education and reminders as the first choice when encountering people or businesses not complying with the restrictions.
As the fall COVID-19 surge was ramping up several weeks ago, Pritzker's stance hardened as more and more businesses and municipalities began openly defying restrictions.
"Sometimes educating people is not enough to get people to do the right thing," he said during a news conference on Oct. 28. "State police have begun to take more stringent action to hold scofflaws accountable. Local officials have a responsibility in this work as well. They are obliged to keep their communities safe."
On Nov. 5, Pritzker used even stronger terms, noting that when local officials fail to enforce COVID-19 restrictions, "people die."
Health officials in Illinois and across the nation are warning that Thanksgiving travel could add to an already exponential surge in infections. November numbers locally and statewide have far outstripped the first wave of infections during April and May.