Central Lake County reports reopening as slower than anticipated

Central Lake County reports reopening as slower than anticipated

Pioneer Press

Jul 21, 2020 3: 41 PM

As communities and businesses continue to open up in Phase 4 of the state’s restoration plan, many entities across the area are reporting slow growth in people coming back out and frequenting services and businesses, officials said.

Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan, titled the “Revitalization” phase, began in late June and permitted gatherings of up to 50 people. It also saw various businesses open up with limited capacity. This included bars and restaurants, barbershops, salons, movie theaters and other retail stores, according to documents from the state.

Specifically, some officials believe that while coronavirus case numbers are relatively stable, the slow growth is rooted in people not wanting to risk it. Vernon Hills Assistant Village Manager Jon Petrillo said businesses in the village are experiencing a slower-than-anticipated return to capacity, saying people are exercising “good caution.”

“The concern of people going back into restaurants is real, even though they were allowed to open,” Petrillo said. “I don’t think they estimated that people would be as reluctant to come back in as we’re seeing.”

Scott Adams, the president of the Green Oaks, Libertyville, Mundelein and Vernon Hills Chamber of Commerce, said this is similar to what is being seen from the chamber’s end as well. He said one thing in particular that differentiates the communities in the center of Lake County from those closer to the lakes is the amount of outdoor dining. Specifically, businesses closer to the lake tend to have more outdoor dining, Adams said.

Petrillo and Adams gave examples of various restaurants in Vernon Hills, Mundelein and Libertyville area that are seeing their outdoor spaces be much more popular than their indoor seating, despite the heat.

Adams said overall, businesses are seeing a slow growth. While he said the turnouts are not as big as some businesses may have been hoping for, he said there is no doubt the outlook on the business community’s health is much better than it was even just a month ago.

Businesses, such as Zachary Chase Hair and Spa in Libertyville, are seeing a slow but steady increase in their clientele. Donna Husko, the owner of Zachary Chase, said when they opened towards the end of May after a 10-week closure, their business was down about 35% from the average. It is now about 20% down, she said. But besides the decrease in average business, Husko said the requirements made by the local, state and federal health departments are not too invasive.

“We’ve added additional protective guidelines,” she said. “It’s just a little extra work we’re doing, but it’s not much more above and beyond what we’re used to doing because we’ve always kept a clean and sanitized salon.”

Husko also speculated that part of that clientele base who is reluctant to visit is senior citizens, who, because of possibly compromised immune systems, are taking extra caution, she said.

But officials did not chastise the slow growth, acknowledging the outcome is merely part of people doing what they’re supposed to do in regards to protocol. Petrillo said the village’s case numbers for COVID-19 have stayed relatively flat, and the village itself is not receiving many complaints about residents not following protocol.

“We are very respectful that everyone is going to have to make an informed decision and only do what they are comfortable with,” he said.

Adams agreed with this sentiment, saying people should continue to remain cautious. Case numbers going forward were something Adams said he was concerned with. Specifically because if case numbers begin to go in the wrong direction, it could mean being rolled back into Phase 3.

“We’d like to see things get stepped up as long as we’re following all the safety precautions that the (Center for Disease Control) and the county put out there,” Adams said. “I’d hate to see us roll back because it would really hurt our businesses tremendously.”

Despite the growing pains accompanied with reopening, Petrillo lauded his community, saying their support and camaraderie have kept case numbers down, and complaints about compliance low.

“We are grateful for the way we’ve come together as a community,” Petrillo said. “(Our residents) are being respectful of each other. They’re wearing masks …. We’re all in this together and there has been amazing support for our community, our business community and we’re very appreciative of that.”

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