Photo by Joe Boyle
The TJ Maxx and Home Goods stores have drawn steady crowds since reopening this summer at the Stony Creek Promenade in Oak Lawn. Crowds were larger on Friday with the opening of the Phase 4 state guidelines.
By Joe Boyle
Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar is fully aware of what the Phase 4 state guidelines means for his village.
"Let me tell you there is a lot of information," the mayor said. "There is 13 pages of information I had to go through. But what I think is most important is that 50 people can attend gatherings instead of 10. It's good for the businesses."
The Phase 4 Restore Illinois guidelines opened Friday. Restrictions are in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic but more events will be available in Illinois. Restaurants must arrange their seating facilities so that tables are six feet apart. Standing areas such as bars will be allowed to operate at no more than 25 percent of capacity. Staff is required to wear face coverings when serving customers.
Tokar visited many of the businesses and restaurants in the village in the last week to get an idea of the preparation and how it has progressed since the Phase 4 opening. He is pleased at what he has seen so far.
"From what I have seen, most people are wearing masks and keeping social distancing," Tokar said. "I walked through the Chicago Ridge Mall one morning last week. There was not a large crowd but just about everyone I saw had on a face mask. I went later that day, after 4 p.m., and it was crowded. I would say most people had on masks. I went through the food court and most people had on masks. I mean I'm surprised when I see some people who don't and I saw a few without masks. I was counting that day. I would say I think I saw about 27 people out of over 300. I think the staff at the Chicago Ridge Mall is doing a great job."
Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury is also pleased how residents and business owners have responded to the Phase 4 state guidelines.
"The biggest difference is that businesses will be open inside," Bury said. "We are excited because we are getting on the other side of this in terms of cases of COVID-19. "But we want to be careful with what is going on in other states."
Both Bury and Tokar have pointed out that Illinois has bended the curve and the number of additional cases of COVID-19 has lowered. But with rising cases of the pandemic in Arizona, Florida and Texas have indicated to both mayors that this is no time to become complacent.
"We don't really know when this is going to end," said Bury, who also owns and operates Complete Vision Care in Oak Lawn. "I don't want to open up and then have to shut down again. As a health professional, I would rather be cautious. But I think it's great for the businesses. I feel for these businesses. We don't want to see them all going dark."
Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett also said that Phase 4 is good news for local businesses.
"Businesses are excited and this helps move the meter a bit in the right direction," Bennett said. "I think most people will notice for the first time that there is indoor dining."
The new guidelines allow for indoor dining, museums to reopen, and gyms and fitness centers to again begin operations.
Tokar also received good news last month when Dick's Sporting Goods indicated that they would like to lease 50,000 square feet of space of the shuttered Carson's at the south end of the Chicago Ridge Mall.
The majority of local mayors have had to wrestle with the fact businesses were financially stressed but also aware that the pandemic is a serious health threat.
Tokar said that it Miller's Ale House at 95th and Ridgeland now has a section of indoor dining available to go with the outdoor patio area. He also said that Berger Station at 10236 S. Ridgeland Ave. has been packed with customers. But he said that people have been waiting patiently outdoors to get in due to limits on capacity.
"The restaurants are doing a great job," Tokar emphasized. "I've been in most of them and everybody is abiding by the rules."
Bennett said that it is tough that the Friendship Fest had to be canceled. RidgeFest is also canceled in Chicago Ridge due to the pandemic.
"It's the first time in 39 years we had to cancel this event," Bennett said about the Friendship Fest. "But next year we will return our fireworks show as well. It will be better than ever."
Bennett agrees that the state guidelines restrictions the past three months was the right move due to the severity of the pandemic.
"I feel it is appropriate," Bennett said. "You could see what has happened in the south and other states. We just have to remind ourselves to wear masks and keep social distancing. We don't want to let our guard down."
Tokar is in complete agreement.
"I still can't understand why some municipalities want to have concerts and all these large gatherings," Tokar said. "We had to cancel our festival. It just had to be. Maybe we can have a fireworks show at the end of the summer. I would love that. But we just have to wait and see. But that's a big if."