Over the weekend, residents in at least two Forest Park-related Facebook groups raised complaints about Madison Street restaurants and bars failing to follow COVID-19 guidelines for safety. Although no specific businesses were mentioned, several residents criticized some local establishments for not following state guidelines.
Servers failing to wear masks, or wearing them inappropriately (pushed down under their noses, for example), tables closer than 6 feet apart, and groups of people smoking outside restaurants in close proximity to one another were some of the concerns discussed.
A few restaurants — Old School, Scratch Kitchen and Mexican Republic — were mentioned as examples of places at which residents had observed guidelines being followed correctly.
On May 24, Governor J.B. Pritzker and Illinois’ Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) released guidelines for outdoor service at bars and restaurants. The guidelines, which were communicated by the village and Forest Park Chamber of Commerce to all businesses that planned to open outdoor service, include employees wearing face masks over their nose and mouth when within 6 feet of others and tables spaced at a minimum of 6 feet from each other.
The full list of guidelines can be found at dceocovid19resources.com/assets/Restore-Illinois/businessguidelines3/restaurantbars.pdf.
On May 29, Forest Park allowed restaurants and bars to open for outdoor seating and service.
The Forest Park Chamber of Commerce has been instrumental in the process of opening outdoor dining in the village.
Laurie Kokenes, executive director, said the following on June 8 in regard to working with businesses to ensure guidelines are being followed: “The chamber continues to work with the business community and collaborate with the village as we move through Phase 3. Our role throughout the health crisis has been to promote and support local businesses, as well as keep them informed about the latest news and guidelines. We’re excited to see businesses reopening and urge them to follow the state and local guidelines for everyone’s safety. Should customers feel uncomfortable or observe any issues, we encourage them to speak directly to the business owner or manager.”
In an interview on June 7, Mayor Rory Hoskins said he urges people concerned about safety to contact the village.
“I’m glad people are complaining,” said Hoskins. “I want the residents to help us police this.”
He said restaurant owners know the rules, which have been provided to them by both the chamber and the village. Additionally, he said, the rules are posted on the state website and easily accessible.
“Snap a photo. Give us evidence,” said Hoskins. “People with concerns should contact the village.”
Steve Glinke, director of public health and safety, agreed with Hoskins that issues with the implementation of outdoor dining should be directed to the village if people aren’t comfortable addressing it with the business directly.
“If I receive a complaint, I’ll meet one-on-one with the manager,” said Glinke, who can be reached at 708-615-6284.
At the June 8 village council meeting, held via Zoom, Village Administrator Tim Gillian addressed the issue.
“There have been some complaints from a handful of residents about social-distancing that may or may not be taking place at restaurants,” said Gillian. “Today, Director Glinke visited with many of those restaurants. I spoke to representatives from the Chamber of Commerce. An email was sent to all businesses indicating that the village really needs businesses to comply with proper social-distancing, and we will start doing spot checks to enforce it.”