By STEPHANIE MALENCH
Attorney Thomas DeVore, who has gained fame during the COVID-19 shutdowns for directly questioning and winning suits against Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive orders and shutdowns of restaurants, bars, and small businesses gave a presentation at Bella Vista Winery in Maryville on Wednesday afternoon about what the new mitigation measures mean to restaurants and bars and what they can do about it.
Around 40-50 restaurant and bar owners and interested community members attended the event on the downstairs patio. In a poll of those in attendance, most of the owners have lost tens of thousands of dollars due to the shutdowns and restrictions placed on dining establishments.
The basis for his advice to the restaurant and bar owners came from the Department of Public Health Act (20 ILCS 2305/2(c)) which states, “no place may be ordered to be closed and made off limits to the public except with the consent of the person or owner of the place or upon the prior order of a court of competent jurisdiction … In the event of an immediate order issued without prior consent or court order, the Department shall, as soon as practical, within 48 hours after issuing the order, obtain the consent of the person or owner or file a petition requesting a court order authorizing the isolation or quarantine or closure.”
As it relates to the new mitigation measure that began Wednesday, Sept. 2, ordering establishments to close their indoor dining areas, DeVore said that several steps have to be taken before a restaurant or bar can actually be shut down. First, if someone comes from the local health department saying the establishment needs to close because of the Restore Illinois Mitigation Plan, restaurant owners or managers should ask the individual to show the court order for closure.
If the restaurant refuses to close, the health department must provide an order of closure to the local State’s Attorney to prosecute the case. Only if the State’s Attorney presents the case to the court and the court finds the restaurant guilty based on hard facts that “the safety or health of patrons is jeopardized” can the business (not an individual) be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Restaurants may remain open throughout this process.
As far as liquor licenses go, if a local liquor commissioner pulls an establishment’s liquor license, they can appeal the revocation to the state liquor commission and continue serving until the hearing has occurred and can appeal again to the State Supreme Court. DeVore said a license can only be revoked for rules and laws under the Liquor Control Act or a local ordinance pertaining specifically to liquor (open bottles at sidewalk seating areas).
Interestingly, in a special notice from the Illinois Gaming Board (www.igb.illinois.gov), “all video gaming operations at all licensed video gaming location in Region 4 will be limited to the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily.” Food and drink service at these facilities is suspended and masks are required in the gaming area.
DeVore informed business owners “I’m not advocating for social disobedience, I’m asking for business owners to stand up.”
The crowd erupted in applause when DeVore said, “If enough of you stay open, this is over.
The majority of restaurant and bar owners in attendance, as well as dozens that had contacted DeVore before Wednesday’s educational presentation, said they plan on keeping their indoor dining open this time.
DeVore said the owners are not looking to be defiant of anything, and have not come by their decisions to stay open lightly. Many of the owners stated that if they shut down inside dining, they will never reopen.
One owner of an establishment outside of Madison County said that last week he did a poll on Facebook asking his customers if he should stay open. Of the 300 responses he received, 297 said to stay open and he is going to do so.
DeVore encouraged each owner to speak with their own legal counsel about their decision since each business has its own unique needs.
PHOTO: Attorney Thomas DeVore speaks Wednesday to business owners in a presentation at Bella Vista Winery in Maryville.