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Coronavirus: What's next? Questions loom for gaming fans, restaurant-goers in Central Illinois

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Video gambling terminals were shut down Monday night to help reduce interactions where the coronavirus can be spread.

BLOOMINGTON – People who eat out and people who gamble — and the people who own those establishments — spent a good part of Monday trying to figure out their next moves after the state instituted rules designed to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Restaurants and bars were scheduled to close at the end of business Monday, but can continue to offer curbside service, pickup, carryout and delivery. Video gaming terminals will shut down statewide at 9 p.m. Monday.

The state closure order remains in effect through March 30.

“I guess it’s going to save me some money,” said Amanda Purlee of Midland City in DeWitt County.

But comments from some business owners and customers — that they intend to snub the governor's orders —have meant a day's worth of discussions for police and municipal leaders.

“I think it is going to be proceeding here with caution, and communication is going to be key,” said Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner. “We’re going to handle this on a case-by-case basis if we are made aware that a business that is not in compliance with the closure. We would go out and check into it and document the information like we do. We will try to gain voluntary compliance and, if not, we will consider what our options are at that point. Is it some sort of injunction or court order that we would proceed with? It certainly will be considered in their ability to maintain a business or alcohol license at that time or moving forward.

“In the interest of public health, we want them to be responsible and honor the closing,” Bleichner said.

On Sunday, one of the more vocal responses came from Joe Sartie, owner of Snapper’s Bar and Grill in Clinton. On social media, he indicated he would consider defying the order and, even if he were jailed, would re-open once he was on bail.

The post was removed within 90 minutes, but not before it had received more than 325 comments, mostly in support.

“I had already started to avoid my favorite (gaming) places due to close quarters, unfortunately,” Purlee said Monday. “And one place in particular didn't clean well to begin with, so germ-wise it's the first place I stopped going to.”

There are 53 establishments in Bloomington and 14 in Normal affected by the gaming shutdown. Patrick Hoban, CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, said there are 347 food service and accommodation businesses overall with about 8,500 total employees in the Twin Cities.

“They said two weeks (for the closure) but they don’t know for sure that anybody is going to be in a position to re-open in two weeks,” said Paul Wright of Bloomington. “I know I probably gamble a little more than I should, but it’s enjoyable for me and this is going to upset a lot of people if it continues.”

Normal Mayor Chris Koos said he believes it will fall to municipalities to enforce the new rules. "The police department and our inspections people, I think, would have to be the ones to enforce this," he said. "But this is all new grounds for us. My staff is having those conversations right now."

Bloomington Police Chief Dan Donath and Corporation Counsel Jeff Jurgens did not respond to a Pantagraph request for comment Monday.

I was forwarded your inquiry regarding bars/restaurants,” said Communication Manager Nora Dukowitz in an emailed response. “As of (Monday) morning, we’d not received/reviewed the full governor’s order. However, we will comply in whatever way appropriate.”

Jan Lancaster, who owns The Bistro and is president of the Downtown Bloomington Assocation, said, "Everybody whom I talked to, we honestly don’t know what we are going to do. We are trying to take all of the precautions that we can, but we’re also very afraid for our employees who depend on the money they make working for us."

Lancaster said she will close her bar, which will affect 10 employees. 

“Honestly, I don’t want to go against it but if  the bars are going to be shut down then so should the bowling alleys, fraternal organizations, the movie theaters. All of these places, I am assuming, would present the same risks that the bars would have,” said Lancaster.

Lisa Williams of Normal was still trying to digest the news early Monday afternoon.

“Ridiculous,” she said. “I’ve been worried about it all day. I enjoy gambling and I like to have a drink, relax and play the video games. I feel like this is too much.”

Owners of Altitude Trampoline said late Sunday night they are temporarily closing their business at 1702  General Electric Road, Unit 4, Bloomington until further notice “for the safety of our employees and all its guests.”

 “It was a very hard decision, but we feel we made the right decision,” added Eric Corcoran, who with his wife, Julie, opened the Twin Cities’ first indoor trampoline park in December 2017.

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