Caution on dining out

Opinion: Editorials

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Plans underway in Forest Park to work actively with local restaurants to open outdoor dining as soon as this week are encouraging but potentially problematic.

Mayor Rory Hoskins, Administrator Tim Gillian, the chamber and local businesses have worked well together in trying to find a path to allow some version of sit-down dining. All agree it would start with outdoor seating, would require diminished capacity and generous social-distancing.

The village is even talking about creating new on-street dining spaces for restaurants that did not previously offer outdoor dining. A local architect has been retained to help figure out the logistics and the aesthetics of turning parking spaces on Madison into seating, to see if the same options can be extended to Roosevelt Road restaurants.

That's all good.

Here are the cautions:

Like every other town in Illinois Forest Park must follow final guidance from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity on the fine details, released on Sunday. The specifics may change or be updated. So there is some wait-and-see.

And then there are the lame-brained people who we all saw on TV news across the Memorial Day weekend, traveling to already re-opened states and cities — Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for example. No masks, no social distancing, seemingly no brain cells at work, swamping bars and restaurants.

Down that path is more infection, more delay in anything that looks like sustainable normal.

If Forest Park is aggressive in allowing outdoor dining to return, it must carry a big stick of enforcement. Pressure and expectations will fall on food entrepreneurs to enforce crowd limits. And it will be necessary for local officials — police, administrators — to actively shut down excess. If we thought it was hard to scoot families off playgrounds a month ago, setting limits on diners and drinkers will be much harder but more necessary.

We have not, as a village, as a state, sacrificed so much over three months for the public good to allow it to evaporate for nachos and a beer on a summer evening.

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