QUINCY — Business owners and leaders celebrated Friday as Illinois entered phase four of the statewide reopening plan, bringing back several businesses and increasing capacity for others.
The state had been in phase three of Governor J.B. Pritzker's reopening plan since May 29.
Phase four of the "Restore Illinois" plan allows for the reopening or expansion of several businesses, including indoor dining at restaurants, health and fitness establishments, movies and theaters, museums and zoos.
This phase also increases the size of gatherings that are allowed from 10 to a maximum of 50 people.
Amid the celebrations, some local businesses leaders said that while they are moving forward with reopening plans they are still taking precautions in hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19, the virus that has sickened more than 139,000 Illinoisans and led to the deaths of more than 6,800 people in the state.
Devin Osborne, marketing director of Fatbacks BBQ, 901 N. 24th, said, "We are actually going to keep our dining room closed until July 1, when we have our anniversary celebration. It will only be open that day, because we have done a full redesign, and we want people to see it. Otherwise, our dining room is staying closed until allowed capacity is higher."
Fatback's is celebrating its eighth anniversary next month.
Osborne said the state's restrictions on seating only would have allowed 10 customers in the dining room at one time. Normal seating capacity is 44 people.
"We know we are a smaller place, but it just is not practical for us to open the dining room for 10 people, then having the increased cost of having someone sanitize everything in between customers, having someone at the door counting people as they come in. It was just more expensive, more money and wouldn't help us serve our customers," Osborne said.
Under the phase four guidelines, indoor dining is allowed for groups of 10 people or fewer, with tables spaced 6 feet apart and with standing areas at no more than 25% of capacity.
Osborne said the restaurant's outdoor seating area is open, and customers are encouraged to keep a social distance if dining outside.
"We just want to keep everybody safe," Osborne said.
Angie Duerr, membership manager at the Salvation Army Kroc Center, said she and her co-workers had similar concerns about reopening the fitness center on Friday.
"We honestly had a lot of conversations and spent a lot of time thinking about our members who are in those at-risk categories, who may be immune-compromised or have other health conditions and trying to think what steps we could take to ensure their well-being while they are at the Kroc Center."
Duerr said that since Kroc Center officials announced that the facility would be opening, they have received lots of phone calls from members who wanted to know what precautions and procedures the facility would take related to COVID-19.
"We tried to make it as straightforward as possible because we didn't want this to stress out our members, or to be a barrier that would overwhelm our new members who want to come to the Kroc Center," Duerr said.
Under state guidelines, fitness centers are allowed to open to 50% capacity and group fitness classes up to 50 people granted that the facility has space to ensure social distancing. In addition, Duerr said members will enter one door and exit another. When members are in the common areas of the building they will be asked to wear a mask, though one is not required when working out. Hand-sanitizing stations will be available throughout the building.
When entering the building, all members and guests will go through a temperature screening and be asked to complete a liability form.
To encourage social distancing, some of the fitness machines in the gym area have been removed, Duerr said.
The Kroc Center also has limited hours of operation, from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, to allow for cleaning. The pool is closed. "We know that nationally people are not wanting to go gyms, and so when you see that kind of stuff, it makes you lose sleep at night, especially if you are the membership director at a fitness center, but honestly, I couldn't be more happy with how today has turned out," said Duerr, who added that more than 170 people had entered the building on Friday.
"Truly it was wonderful to see everyone coming in," Duerr said. "Everyone has taken all of the changes in stride, getting used to new entry procedures, and we're just so thankful and grateful that we were open again. A lot of people were just happy to be here."