Bars reopen indoors

Patrons enjoy the outdoor seating at On The Rox in Kankakee on Thursday evening ahead of the start of Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan that began Friday. Under the plan, bars and restaurants can open for indoor service with capacity limits and IDPH-approved safety guidance.

AROMA PARK — Kathleen Slavin said business has been booming at Ryan’s Pier, the popular Aroma Park bar and restaurant nestled near the Kankakee River.

She’s bracing herself for an even bigger turnout this weekend as the prohibition regarding indoor seating in bars has been lifted by the state as Illinois enters Phase 4 of the reopening plan connected with the coronavirus.

As she juggled carry-out orders and patio seating dining on a brilliant Thursday afternoon in the village, Slavin said has no doubt that people will be out in force come weekend.

“Definitely people will be coming back,” she said. “People just want to get out. People are ready to get out and start socializing again.”

Because Phase 4 of Restore Illinois restrictions limit indoor capacity to half of what a location is allowed to have, Slavin said the 80-seat indoor dining area will be cut to 40. In response to the indoor limitation, Slavin will be keeping her outdoor tented area in place. Along with the patio area, she will have outdoor space for another 80.

Asked if she’s been eagerly anticipating this moment, she gave an emphatic “yes.”

“Yes! We are ready for these restrictions to be lifted,” she said eagerly.

In Kankakee’s downtown area, Out On A Limb bar owner Lance Marczak has been busy the past few days getting the business ready to once again welcome customers. He’s unsure what to expect this weekend.

“We’ll see what happens. We’ll see who shows up,” he said. “Honestly, I believe people will want to come out, but it’s going to be a crapshoot. I truly believe people are tired of being at home.”

Out On A Limb has seating for 120, but that will be significantly cut to meet the capacity requirement.

Denna Rabideau, owner of the Village Pub in Bradley, has been experiencing big crowds since May 29, when outdoor seating was OK’d.

She said it is hard to hold back the crowds. She said people simply want to be out and returning to some type of normalcy.

“I’m very grateful and thankful that people have come back out. People are over this,” she said.

Dirk Panozzo, owner of the Jailhouse Rock in Kankakee, said he expects business to be strong even with half of the 80-person location to be restricted.

“I certainly expect to be at the limit. I’ve been getting messages regularly about when I would be reopening,” he said.

Panozzo said he has been offering outdoor seating.

Even with the good news of business returning to somewhat more normal operations, Panozzo knows there is still a long road ahead.

“It is going to take a long time to recoup from this,” he said. “This has been going on for nearly four months. A lot of business has been lost.”

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