2 southwest IL restaurants that broke COVID rules got state money. Now they could lose it.
Kelsey Landis, Belleville News-Democrat 7 hrs ago
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Belleville News-Democrat logo2 southwest IL restaurants that broke COVID rules got state money. Now they could lose it.
At least two metro-east restaurants that have defied coronavirus restrictions were awarded thousands of dollars in state grants meant to help establishments survive a ban on indoor service.
Fast Eddie’s Bon Air in Alton and Uncle Linny’s Family Restaurant in Pontoon Beach were awarded $10,000 and $15,000 grants, respectively, in a second round of the $636 million Business Interruption Grant program.
Though the grant requires applicants to agree that they have “complied with all relevant laws, regulations and executive orders” from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office, customers were dining inside at Uncle Linny’s on Thursday afternoon.
The state could revoke grants if businesses do not comply, Pritzker said at a news briefing in Chicago.
“The state has the ability to do that if they’re not fulfilling their obligation under the grant agreement,” Pritzker said. “ ... We want people to follow the rules.”
An owner of the restaurant reached by phone declined twice to comment on the state grant awarded to his business.
Illinois State Police cited Fast Eddie’s, the popular bar and grill in the riverside town of Alton, earlier this month for violating coronavirus restrictions. On Thursday afternoon, it was only offering outdoor service.
Noncomplying businesses, not individuals, can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a fine of $75 to $2,500. State police did not specify what COVID-19 restrictions Fast Eddie’s had violated. The agency considers a misdemeanor to be a last resort after educating business owners and issuing warnings, Director Brendan Kelly said Wednesday.
An owner of Fast Eddie’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The metro-east entered its second round of additional restrictions on Wednesday. Bars and restaurants are not allowed to offer indoor service and specific rules are still in place for outdoor dining. There is also a 25-person limit on gatherings.
Owners say the restrictions are a death sentence for their businesses as the weather turns cold, and some have decided to offer indoor dining in defiance of Pritzker’s order, including Uncle Linny’s. A server from the restaurant told the Belleville News-Democrat earlier this month that the ban on indoor dining threatens the livelihoods of owners and employees.
In the second round announced Thursday, $38 million went to roughly 1,200 businesses statewide with a focus on regions heavily impacted by restrictions. Restaurants, bars and other businesses affected by COVID-19 restrictions can use the money to help with payroll, rent, utilities and other costs.
A total of $220 million is available in the second round of grants. The governor’s office has encouraged business owners to apply, which can be done online at www2.illinois.gov/dceo.
Republican lawmakers have pushed back against the latest restrictions, which had gone into effect in six of the state’s 11 state-defined regions for tracking a resurgence of the virus. Two more regions were expected to join by the end of the week.