LINCOLN — The mayor of Lincoln says he will not revoke or suspend the liquor license for any establishment that chooses to remain open and serve alcohol during the mitigation protocols put in place by the state last week.
The restrictions for Region 3 southwest of McLean County prohibit indoor bar and restaurant service, closes those establishments at 11 p.m. and limits the size of gatherings to 25 people or 25% of a room’s capacity. On Sunday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that Region 2, which includes McLean County, will be under the same guidelines, effective Wednesday.
In a social media post, Tracy Welch said city and county officials met with the Logan County Department of Public Health last Friday to discuss the mitigation plan and what it means to the community.
“I can tell you that during that meeting I was extremely adamant that our bars and restaurants cannot withstand another lengthy shutdown and that as the Mayor of Lincoln, I will do everything in my power to see that they survive,” he said.
Under the guidelines released by the state, bars and restaurants, can no longer offer indoor dining services but they may continue to provide carry out and delivery services. In addition they can provide outdoor dining services. Also under the mitigation plan, meetings, social events and gatherings are limited to 25 guests or 25% of room capacity. No party buses are allowed. Gaming casinos (parlors) are limited to 25% capacity however they cannot serve food or beverages indoors and must close by 11:00 p.m.
“First, as the Liquor Commissioner I will not revoke or suspend the liquor license for any establishment that chooses to remain open and serve alcohol,” Welch said. “Second, I have spoken with the Chief of Police and we agree that the City of Lincoln will not take any action against a business that chooses to remain open unless there is a judicial order.”
But that doesn’t mean bars and restaurants in Lincoln that choose to stay open are in the clear.
“The part that is out of control is that the Logan County Department of Public Health takes its direction from the Illinois Department of Public Health which is controlled by the Governor's office,” Welch added. “There is a process they must follow. Furthermore, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol do not only require a license by the City of Lincoln, but they also require a license from the Illinois Liquor Commission. While I have said that I will not revoke or suspend a liquor license issued by the city, I cannot control what actions the Illinois Liquor Commission may take.”
in Logan County, 683 residents have tested positive and five have died with COVID-19. The positivity rate as of Monday morning was 3.6%.
The City of Lincoln isn’t the only community taking this stance. In East Peoria, a part of Region 2, Mayor John Kahl made a similar announcement Sunday.
“East Peoria will not be enforcing the restrictions that will be imposed by the Governor on our business community in the coming days,” he said. “We will continue to support the rights of all members of the business community to remain open. The businesses of East Peoria have done their part throughout these challenging times and not a single one of them has been found by the Health Department to pose a risk to public health.”
Welch knows not everybody in Lincoln agrees with the his decision.
“I realize that there is a difference of opinion on this matter throughout the community,” he said. “I am very aware of the concerns that COVID-19 poses, take them seriously, and have been supportive of measures to ensure the safety of everybody. This is why I continue to be an advocate for wearing masks, social distancing, and frequent sanitation. However, I don't feel that imposing extremely restrictive sanctions on our businesses to the point where they lose revenue, have to reduce hours for employees, or worse, close their doors, is the answer. Our businesses have made a substantial investment and commitment in our community and we owe it to them, and their employees, to support and defend them.”
Welch asked Lincoln residents to be respectful and compassionate towards the local businesses.
“In speaking with many of the business owners, I have no doubt that they understand the severity of the pandemic. Should they chose to remain open, they will continue to serve you as safely as they have been through the pandemic in whatever means you feel most comfortable with. If you do not feel comfortable with the options they provide I have no doubt that they will understand and hope that you will continue to patronize them when the mitigation plan has been lifted.”
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Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow