Small businesses across the nation, including those in Forest Park, will undoubtedly be hit hard by closures related to coronavirus. Governor J.B. Pritzker instructed all bars and restaurants to suspend dine-in service beginning end of business day, March 16.
On the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page (facebook.com/forestparkchamber), the hashtag #forestparkstrong has taken off, as the chamber gains momentum and support to stand behind local businesses. Gathering bar and restaurant owners online, the group is scrambling to bring them together for virtual discussion and to come up with ways to help them survive.
Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the chamber, said, “We’ve tossed our to-do list aside and are completely focused on promoting our businesses and providing support, and doing our part to rally the community together so we keep moving forward. We’re also working closely with village officials to understand and communicate necessary information to the business community.”
First, the chamber developed a survey to check in with businesses and figure out how the chamber can support them.
The chamber is also compiling a list of restaurants and bars that are currently providing delivery, drive-through or curb-side service to customers. This is being shared with the public through Forest Park Facebook groups and online at tinyurl.com/sh7en8t.
Research into business disaster loans has begun. Many local businesses have been informed that business interruption insurance does not apply to this situation since it was a shutdown mandated by government.
Fundraising is another option for the business community, and the chamber says they are looking into options and brainstorming different ways this could work.
The chamber has met with Mayor Rory Hoskins and will continue to do so at least on a weekly basis. The village has lifted parking restrictions and is working to roll out official requirements for restaurants. The mayor has been asked to look into off-location liquor licenses, how restaurants can get access to large hand-sanitizer dispensing machines, and bill relief.
“In the face of this uncertain time, the determination, creativity and support for each other that’s being demonstrated by business owners is beyond amazing,” said Kokenes. “Residents are also coming together in a big way to do what they can to support their beloved businesses. But I’m not surprised. That’s just how Forest Park is.”
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