By Maria Maxham
The village council will vote on whether or not stricter guidelines should be put in place locally for restaurants and, especially, bars at the regularly scheduled village council meeting on Aug. 10. But the ordinance up for vote is being rewritten with softer restrictions after Aug. 7 discussions between Mayor Rory Hoskins and two local bar owners.
On Aug. 6, the agenda for the meeting included an ordinance "adopting the Cook County Department of Public Health mitigation guidance for COVID-19" in Forest Park.
This ordinance put several restrictions in place for Forest Park businesses, including indoor consumption of alcohol no longer being allowed at any bar or tavern operating without a food license. That would impact at least seven bars in town, which would only be permitted to allow customers on licensed patios or beer gardens.
Two Forest Park bar owners, Marty Sorice and Joe Sullivan, reached out to Hoskins on Friday, Aug. 7 to discuss the ordinance.
According to Hoskins, the ordinance is being amended so bars can still provide indoor service, but for seated customers only, at tables spaced with social distancing in mind. This measure would prevent large crowds from congregating. A rewritten ordinance will be posted online by the end of the day Friday, Aug. 7.
On Aug. 3, the Cook County Department of Public Health issued recommendations for suburban businesses as the positivity rate for COVID-19 increased, rising from 5.2 percent on July 22 to 5.8 percent on July 31 in suburban Cook County.
The county's guidance is in the form of recommendations; the county is not enforcing the rules. But individual towns can put official rules in place and enforce them, if deemed necessary by local officials. One of the more restrictive of the county's recommendations is that bars and establishments that do not serve food should not serve customers indoors.
Also included in Forest Park's ordinance, to be voted on Monday night, is a reduction in party-size at restaurants from 10 people, allowable under phase 4 of Illinois' Restore Illinois plan, to six people per table.
In related news, on Aug. 7 , Gov. J. B. Pritzker announced that health authorities in Illinois will be able to fine establishments that fail to follow mask and capacity guidelines as part of a new emergency rule, which "would provide multiple opportunities for compliance" prior to a fine being levied. These opportunities for compliance include warnings.
However, if businesses fail to comply, a Class A Misdemeanor charge and fine of up to $2,500 could be issued.
According to Pritzker during his announcement, the Illinois Department of Public Health and local authorities will have power to "seek cooperation with businesses in COVID-19 related investigations."
"These rules are a commonsense way to enforce mask requirements without jumping immediately to the extremely tough consequences that exist on the books today," Pritzker said. "They'll give local authorities a step-by-step guide on how to enforce masks and distancing, and an opportunity to help businesses act in good faith."
Capital News Service contributed to this article
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