DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) – With just over a week until bars and restaurants will be able to offer outdoor seating service, the city of Decatur is trying to figure out how to make it happen.
"We hope to have everything up and rolling when the governor says everything is good to go on the 29,” Decatur’s Mayor Julie Moore-Wolfe told WAND. "These restaurants, it has been a nightmare for them for the last two months, it is not an easy business to be in."
The city wants to fill the tables of businesses across town but doing so is much more difficult than many thought.
Under a revised re-opening plan by the governor, bars and restaurants can open for outside dining as long as tables are six feet apart and away from sidewalks, which is not an easy option for businesses on Merchant Street.
The mayor said council is looking at actions to make it easier, which could include shutting down all or parts of Merchant Street to allow restaurants to put tables in the streets. Moore-Wolfe said if that were to happen, liquor laws would have to be modified to allow for the sale of alcohol in streets.
The city is also looking at closing certain parking lots near bars and restaurants to allow them to operate in those spaces.
"We want to do this in the safest, most responsible way we can, and the most important thing, aside from public health and public safety, is getting our economy going again,” the mayor said.
Moore-Wolfe believes there is no one size fits all plan, but the goal is to make the best decision the city can to move forward when the green light is given.
"There are other people to consider and there are restaurants all over town,” she said. “For some it will work easy, some it will not. We're in this for the long haul and we are going to do the best we can and do our best to come out of this better."
Council is also looking at ways to help businesses by possibly setting up tents in the event of poor weather, and possibly waiving fees that are currently required if a business wants to have seating outside.
The city of Decatur will meet next Tuesday to discuss plans for how to move forward.
Moore-Wolfe said the COVID-19 shutdown has resulted in a $5.4 million hole in the city’s budget.