Nov 29, 2020 - Health

Restaurants fight COVID restrictions

A line of two-people tables on a sidewalk next to heated lamps
Diners in the Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, on Nov. 11. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Restaurants in several states — including Kentucky, Illinois and California — are staying open and defying restrictions, as states try to manage skyrocketing coronavirus cases and hospitalizations with more safety measures.

The big picture: Restaurant industry trade groups have been desperately lobbying for federal aid from a coronavirus stimulus package that has yet to see any traction in Congress.

What they're saying: “I asked what would happen if I keep on serving,” Andrew Cooperrider, owner of a Lexington, Kentucky, coffee shop, told the Lexington Herald Leader. He said the health department couldn't tell him what repercussions he would face.

  • “The worst that could happen is we close ... I go to jail for a bit,” Cooperrider said. “What am I facing now, locked up inside my house with losing my businesses. ... I have more to gain by resisting than I do to comply.”
  • “Back in January I was a millionaire. Now I’m on food stamps. ... I understand about us dying but I care about us living," he added.

In Carol Stream, Illinois, Mike Coughlin is keeping his Village Tavern and Grill open despite a statewide suspension of indoor dining, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • “You pay my bills, you pay my taxes, you pay my employees, and I’ll close,” Coughlin said, addressing Democrat Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “I’m not going to be the guy with a boarded-up building because I follow someone else’s science.”
  • “I was faced with a lose-lose situation,” Spiro Roumpas, co-owner of Ki’s Steak and Seafood in a Chicago suburb, told the WSJ. He is keeping his dining rooms open and says local authorities have not yet enforced the statewide ban.

In Los Angeles County last week, the California Restaurant Association lost its bid to block an outdoor dining ban from taking effect, per the Los Angeles Times.

The bottom line: A September study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that participants who tested positive for the coronavirus were about twice as likely as those who tested negative to have dined at restaurants in the two weeks before they got sick.

  • The study did not differentiate between outdoor and indoor dining options.
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