Restaurants reopen indoor seating under relaxed regional COVID-19 restrictions

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Daily file photo by Brian Lee

Downtown Evanston. The Century 12 Evanston movie theatre won’t reopen under its current ownership, the Evanston RoundTable reported Monday.

Alexander Vail , Reporter

Some Evanston restaurants have begun seating patrons for the first time in months after the Illinois Department of Public Health announced a move into Phase 4 of its reopening plan.

Region 10 moved into Tier 1 of the plan on Jan. 23, allowing limited indoor dining. On Feb. 2, the region moved into Phase 4, allowing restaurants to seat parties of up to 10.

Some restaurants, like wing restaurant Buffalo Joe’s, are continuing to limit their services to carry out orders.

“We don’t have a lot of seats in the first place,” General Manager Dean Holden said, adding that with carryout orders alone, Buffalo Joe’s had “a good football season and a good winter.”

YoFresh Cafe began allowing customers to dine-in last week. The business has distanced their seating and installed plexiglass panels, but despite taking precautions, owner Larry Murphy expressed some concern for the safety of his patrons and staff.

“The fact is that you can’t eat with a mask on,” Murphy said.

Murphy also said he declined to host a private party, although YoFresh often held events before the pandemic. Although a party of less than 10 people is allowed under current IDPH guidelines, Murphy said he is uneasy about hosting groups until vaccinations are more widespread.

“I know there’s strong pressure in the marketplace for reopening,” Murphy said. “We have values that transcend the purely economic and we want to do that which is responsible and respectful of the well-being of those whom we serve and those who join us in serving others.”

Locally owned restaurants have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, forcing some local favorites to close permanently, including the Unicorn Cafe, the Burger King on Orrington Avenue and Andy’s Frozen Custard.

Some Evanston residents are eager to support local eateries and help prevent further closures, but are still unsure about indoor dining.

Optician Emily Henderson, who has frequent contact with elderly patients, said she does not feel comfortable dining indoors. Henderson tries to support locally owned restaurants by ordering carryout at least once a week.

“I’ve really been focusing on making sure that I’m ordering from privately owned (restaurants) rather than big chain restaurants,” Henderson said. “They’re going to survive, but it’s the small businesses that really need support.”

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Twitter: @alexbvail

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