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Illinois Restaurant Association cites misleading far-right talking points in push against mitigations

Thursday, Oct 22, 2020

* Press release…

Sam Toia, President and CEO, Illinois Restaurant Association

The Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA) cannot support the COVID-19 mitigation plan presented by Governor Pritzker’s office that ceases dine-in operations at restaurants across the state of Illinois. Moving backwards in this manner spells complete devastation for the restaurant industry. The extreme measures outlined by the Governor’s team will result in the permanent closure of countless restaurants statewide, eliminating thousands of jobs and desolating communities inhabited by millions of residents.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the restaurant industry - which is among the most highly regulated in health and safety - has quickly implemented and enforced enhanced procedures and policies with respect to sanitation, PPE, social distancing, timed reservation blocks, face coverings, hand sanitizer stations, signage and more. It’s alarming that restaurants are among the only businesses affected in the Governor’s most recent announcement given our unparalleled levels of safety.

We do not agree with the order to completely eliminate dine-in operations. The IRA wants to work with the Governor’s office on a pragmatic mitigation plan that supports the health and safety of our state without jeopardizing the livelihoods of the people and businesses that serve as the cornerstone of our communities. Earlier curfews and reduced occupancy levels are two examples of more reasonable measures.

We also have serious concerns over the consistency of the data the state is using to drive these devastating decisions to close our industry. By contrast, DuPage County has provided detailed statistics indicating that restaurants are linked to just 6% of outbreaks over the past seven months - yet their indoor dining was shut down. As the science surrounding COVID-19 has evolved, so must the metrics for mitigation.

Additionally, as restaurants are forced to close indoor dining and lay off their team members, they do so without any financial support. The funding opportunities currently available from the state of Illinois are only helping the smallest fraction of restaurant operations. The state needs to provide grants, waive licensing and permitting fees and delay tax payments, as well as advocate for relief at the federal level.

Conservative estimates indicate that at least 20 percent of restaurants will be forced to close their doors permanently. This means 120,000 jobs in Illinois, gone.

We cannot allow this to happen. Closing restaurants down now means closing them for good!

The situation today is much different than it was in March through May, when restaurants were closed to all on-premises dining, Sam. Citing old statistics to make your case might win an uninformed debate, but sharing talking points with Amy Jacobson and others on the extreme far right about those DuPage County numbers is not a good look.

Much more recent numbers show that restaurants are the number two driver of outbreaks in DuPage, behind nursing homes. And, as I told subscribers this morning, if you want to control the spread in nursing homes and other congregate facilities, you have to control community spread

Mayor Tim Kabat was already on edge as thousands of students returned to La Crosse, Wis., to resume classes this fall at the city’s three colleges. When he saw young people packing downtown bars and restaurants in September, crowded closely and often unmasked, the longtime mayor’s worry turned to dread.

Now, more than a month later, La Crosse has endured a devastating spike in coronavirus cases — a wildfire of infection that first appeared predominantly in the student-age population, spread throughout the community and ultimately ravaged elderly residents who had previously managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic.

For most of 2020, La Crosse’s nursing homes had lost no one to covid-19. In recent weeks, the county has recorded 19 deaths, most of them in long-term care facilities. Everyone who died was over 60. Fifteen of the victims were 80 or older. The spike offers a vivid illustration of the perils of pushing a herd-immunity strategy, as infections among younger people can fuel broader community outbreaks that ultimately kill some of the most vulnerable residents. […]

Local efforts to contain the outbreak have been hamstrung by a statewide campaign to block public health measures, including mask requirements and limits on taverns, he added. “Your first responsibility as a local government is really to protect the health and safety and welfare of your residents,” he said. “When you feel like that’s not happening and you have few tools or resources available to change that, it’s more than frustrating.” […]

Recent data released by Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that weekly cases in nursing homes rose nationwide in late September as the disease became more widespread in 38 states and the country entered its third coronavirus spike. That marked the first uptick in seven weeks in long-term care, after new cases dropped throughout August and early September.

All that being said, this is an absolute travesty. A coordinated, responsible federal response to this pandemic would have eased the suffering of people who work in and own restaurants. But with deaths, hospitalizations and positivity rates soaring here, what we do not need is one of the state’s leading business associations using false right-wing propaganda to make its case.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

32 Comments
  1. - Dance Band on the Titanic - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 11:57 am:

    Sam’s members would be better served if he spent his effort advocating for a federal coronavirus relief bill that provides funding for restaurant owners and staff during the shutdowns that are now inevitable.

    Arguing over whether restaurants and bars are sources of spread is counterproductive.


  2. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 11:59 am:

    ===Arguing over whether restaurants and bars are sources of spread is counterproductive===

    Agreed. And arguing that restaurants didn’t contribute to the spread *while they were shut down* and that this so-called evidence should be used to keep them open now is patently absurd and even Orwellian.


  3. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:01 pm:

    ===the president also does not have the power to close the state===

    Who’s arguing that?

    The problem is not what the feds can or can’t order. The problem is the federal government’s complete gross and continuing incompetence and even at times malign intent.


  4. - Eastside - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:03 pm:

    I am confused by this constant drumbeat that a coordinated, responsible federal response to the pandemic would have changed things at the state level. The author of the blog should know better than anyone that state governments rarely follow federal guidance unless penalized or incentivized. The CDC came out with very clear guidelines for re-opening that were praised by many, including our Governor. Now, the President then publicly abandoned those guidelines but not a single state that praised the CDC guidelines adopted them. Our Governor has already stated that he will not accept CDC vaccine protocols. So how would a federal response impact much of anything if the states are going to do their own thing anyway? There is one national healthcare coverage for low income individuals in the nation and it is administered in 50 different ways.


  5. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:04 pm:

    The pandemic causes the economic slowdown as Rich has said many times. There are no customers for restaurants when the pandemic rages because anyone with a few brain cells is going to stay away from restaurants and any unnecessary indoor place. The restrictions just prevent people from getting sick and dying. The economic pain is going to come restrictions or not.


  6. - Hamlet's Ghost - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:05 pm:

    If the federal government had sent every household five masks in April and not mocked mask wearing we’d be much better off today.

    USPS Covid-19 Coronavirus Plan To Send Every Household Face Masks: Why The White House Stopped It

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2020/09/18/usps-covid-19-coronavirus-plan-to-send-every-household-face-masks-how-the-white-house-stopped-it/#579360e36b2a


  7. - dirksen - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:13 pm:

    I don’t think access to masks was the issue.


  8. - Benniefly2 - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:14 pm:

    It will be interesting to see if Dupage County enforces this. Anecdotally speaking, as I have been driving around for groceries and such the past month or so, it sure looked like many restaurants in the Bloomingdale/Carol Stream/Glendale Heights/Glen Ellyn areas often had parking lots too full for the 25% + outside availability allowed. I never heard of any of them getting in trouble for it.


  9. - Soccermom - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:15 pm:

    Let’s also keep in mind that those DuPage numbers represent only a fraction of cases. There have been more than 21,000 confirmed cases in the county, and the outbreaks by setting account for only about 3,000. And those countywide cases are almost certainly an undercount, because of the many people who are contagious but have no symptoms. So who knows how many people have been infected in restaurant settings over the past month?


  10. - SouthSide Markie - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:16 pm:

    I know that this is little off point, but it should come back to bite Toia and the Illinois Restaurant Association. They weren’t too worried about job and business losses for hospitality workers when they lobbied to make it almost impossible for food trucks to operate in Chicago a few years ago.


  11. - Pundent - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:27 pm:

    I have not eaten inside a restaurant since the pandemic began and won’t until it’s over. The vast majority of the people I come in contact with feel the same way. So what does that leave you with? People who don’t take the pandemic seriously and just don’t care about it’s spread. That’s the population the Illinois Restaurant Association wants to serve. And in doing so they are simply extending the amount of time that it will take to put this behind us.


  12. - Jibba - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:48 pm:

    I had to giggle when he talked about the unparalleled levels of safety. I don’t see all that social distancing and mask wearing at restaurants, and neither do commenters and news reports.


  13. - Oscar - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:48 pm:

    this is happening everywhere… can you blame them?

    https://www.dailyherald.com/business/20201021/gene–georgetti-closing-rosemont-restaurant

    If places like this can’t stay open, ma and pa shops will definitely not make it. The whole state economy will go even more into the toilet if we lock down for a second time.

    I am not saying get rid of all restrictions that have been imposed by restaurants, that’s not what I am saying at all. But if you don’t want to go to restaurants because you feel they are unsafe, do not go.

    Come November 1st I will join the tens of thousands that have come before me this year in saying Good Bye to Illinois forever. This, along with our terrible state government, cost of living, increasingly dangerous cities, lack of support for law enforcement. This state is a joke.


  14. - Mr. Smith - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:49 pm:

    To be perfectly honest, who gives a rat’s tail about what the Illinois Restaurant Association thinks about a non-foodborne public health issue?

    I feel very badly for the small business that have suffered from the restrictions that we need to take to try to get through this crisis. But making public health decisions on the basis of business profit is, well, dumb.

    Face it, friends. We are going to have to get used to a very different landscape until we find an effective vaccine, not to mention get people to actually take it. And just like our parents and grandparents did when we were at war, we need to make sacrifices to get through this. It won’t be easy. But how many people need to get sick and die from this - or have permanent health complications - before the covidiots will be satisfied?


  15. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:49 pm:

    “I have not eaten inside a restaurant since the pandemic began and won’t until it’s over.”

    And I won’t be returning to any restaurants that play games with COVIC-19.

    Any restaurant that will cut corners regarding health and safety during a pandemic will cut corners regarding health and safety after a pandemic.

    – MrJM


  16. - Dutch - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:52 pm:

    Maybe I’m missing something. I guess I don’t understand why casinos can stay open for indoor use at a reduced rate during mitigation and restaurants can’t. I get that it’s about money. But it does seem like the state is favoring a specific industry over another.


  17. - Not a Billionaire - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:55 pm:

    I can only speak for myself but I have been fine without indoor dining and after this sort of behavior I may never again do it.


  18. - Lincoln Lad - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 12:55 pm:

    I’m with MrJM… any restaurants I know to be playing games will never see my business again. Not dine in, not carry out.


  19. - cermak_rd - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 1:00 pm:

    In a casino, one can wear a mask. In a restaurant, when one is eating, one can’t. Casinos tend to be much larger than restaurants allowing for more space between people, also, people aren’t as likely to clump up in a casino (especially if most of the patrons are playing the video games). And lastly most casinos were built later than most restaurants and built to accomodate smokers so they may have better ventilation than a standard restaurant.

    Those would be my guesses, if I’m wrong, I would agree with your issue of favoritism.


  20. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 1:01 pm:

    === if we lock down for a second time===

    Don’t be such a drama queen. Nobody, but nobody is saying anything close to this. Just stop already or go back to Facebook.


  21. - i 94 - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 1:28 pm:

    “a coordinated, responsible federal response.”

    the problem with this is even among gov. Pritzker’s cohorts, they don’t agree on what is appropriate. michigan governor whitmer (D) is utilizing much harsher measures than JB. And wisconsin governor evers (d) is much looser.

    So, which of the three approaches should the federal government follow? Illinois, Wisconsin or Michigan?

    And what should be the federal government response when a governor decides not to follow the guidelines?


  22. - Jocko - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 1:30 pm:

    ==I don’t understand why casinos can stay open==

    Have you gone to a casino (not the sportsbook) since they re-opened? Covid-19 (and subsequent restrictions) have taken all the fun out of them.


  23. - Jibba - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 1:31 pm:

    ==But if you don’t want to go to restaurants because you feel they are unsafe, do not go.==

    This is arguing like a child. You shouldn’t have to be told that if you pass it to someone at a restaurant, they might pass it on to someone elsewhere like your grandma or me?


  24. - Norseman - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 1:33 pm:

    === which is among the most highly regulated in health and safety ===

    Because this industry is the cause of much of the foodborne outbreaks. They are also a prime medium for the spread of communicable diseases. That’s why their on the bubble now. I emphasize with those who are dealing with this pandemic responsibly. That’s why I’m angry at the GOP refusal to take action months ago to provide additional assistance. Yet, it’s ironic that these folks turn to that party for help in overturning needed pandemic control efforts.


  25. - Soccermom - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 1:39 pm:

    It is almost impossible to figure out where the majority of transmissions take place, especially since many people who are infectious don’t know they have it. So all we can do is extrapolate from evidence — like the finding that people who report going inside restaurants are more likely to get sick than people who don’t. I mean, yeah, we don’t know what else differentiates those two groups of people. But when I saw that one, I was like — yeah, I can keep on cooking or carrying out a while longer.


  26. - Groundhog Day - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 1:46 pm:

    Regarding the different standards for restaurants and casinos: a mask does not effect your ability to gamble. But you cannot actually eat or drink without removing your mask. So that *might* explain it.


  27. - Club J - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 2:00 pm:

    I’ve seen this Dupage County report twice now yet can’t seem to locate it anywhere. It’s an interesting talking point for the far right, but those who would like to see real numbers seem to be out of luck. I wonder why Toia didn’t sound the alarm months ago when other regions were blowing up to make sure restaurants and bars were following the guidelines set out from the Governor?


  28. - Chatham Resident - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 2:59 pm:

    Is it just me or even before the pandemic, we had way too many restaurants to begin with? Especially in Springfield among other cities. And too many niche restaurants. All competing for smaller slices of the pie compared to say, 20-30 or so years ago.

    Plus before the pandemic it seemed like most of the fast food places (especially McDonalds in Chatham) seemed like over 75% of their business was the drive thru or carry out to begin with. Few people eating in compared to past decades.

    It would not hurt to have some restaurants permanently closed, sadly it would take a pandemic for this to happen. Although I do feel for the workers and owners–the latter of whom were probably having a hard time trying to find employees to begin with.


  29. - Shytown - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 3:21 pm:

    Sam Toia is a pretty standup guy and I know he has to fight like hell for his members, but this is not the way to do it. Instead focus on how members can stay alive and keep revenue in the door through boosting both their ability to serve diners outside during cold weather and takeout/deliveries.


  30. - Joe Bidenopolous - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 3:51 pm:

    =But if you don’t want to go to restaurants because you feel they are unsafe, do not go.=

    1. As Pundent more cogently explained, the people most likely to go to restaurants are the people most likely to disregard other mitigation measures when they aren’t at home, e.g., masks and social distancing. That makes them more likely to get it, and then spread it, possibly to someone you care about. Killin’ grandma to keep restaurants open is pretty heartless.

    2. There’s only one Oscar here, and it’s Rich’s dog - get a new handle

    3. Don’t let the door hit your keister on the way out. We certainly aren’t going to miss another covidiot


  31. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 4:03 pm:

    ===But if you don’t want to go to restaurants because you feel they are unsafe, do not go. ===

    Did you even read the post? How about doing that before commenting next time?


  32. - Captain Obvious - Thursday, Oct 22, 20 @ 7:57 pm:

    It would not hurt to have some restaurants permanently closed…this level of ignorance is dismaying. Too many restaurants? Guess what Einstein, if there are too many of anything, the market will correct. Which restaurants would you like to see closed?


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