By Sarah Mansur, Capitol News Illinois
Four restaurants in Sangamon County that continued to offer indoor dining in defiance of Gov. JB Pritzker’s COVID-19 mitigation plan were ordered to shut down temporarily Tuesday.
The order from a Sangamon County judge states that the four restaurants — Charlie Parker’s Diner, D&J Cafe, Sweet Basil Cafe and Fox Run Restaurant and Lounge — “are prohibited from selling food items,” effective immediately.
The Sangamon County Department of Public Health issued citations and $500 fines last week to the restaurants for violating the indoor dining ban that went into effect on Friday, Nov. 13.
The entire state came under stricter COVID-19 restrictions earlier this month after all 11 of the state’s mitigation regions experienced positivity rates greater than 8 percent for three consecutive days. Those restrictions included a ban on indoor dining and bar service, as well as limits on in-person capacity and six-feet social distancing requirements.
Local officials in Springfield and Sangamon County initially proposed a “phased” plan to allow indoor dining and bar service to continue but changed course after legislative leaders announced they would cancel the fall session that would have brought members of the Illinois General Assembly to town and cases continued to rise.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Sangamon County had reported 7,913 positive cases and 76 deaths related to COVID-19.
After issuing the fines and citations, the Sangamon County health department suspended the restaurants’ food services licenses, but they continued to operate without licenses. Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright, who represents the health department, filed a complaint in Sangamon County court against the restaurants. Wright’s complaint asked the court to find that the restaurants violated the county code requiring food licenses, and to issue a temporary restraining order to keep them from operating.
On Tuesday afternoon, Judge Raylene Grischow granted a temporary restraining order against the four restaurants, pending the next court hearing on Dec. 3.
Thomas DeVore — who represents Charlie Parker’s, Fox Run and Sweet Basil Café — said he believed the rule of law was missing in the Sangamon County courtroom on Tuesday.
“A valid argument that the health department engaged in arbitrary and capricious action was set aside and the strong-arm tactics of the administrative body were upheld by the court,” DeVore said after the hearing. He said he and his clients are still determining their next steps.
Wright declined to comment on Grischow’s decision.
A couple hours later, Pritzker announced during his daily news conference that the entire state would be subject to additional restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.
He was also asked about whether local officials should issue fines to business that don’t comply with his executive orders.
“Yes, they should,” Pritzker said. “Just as they should enforce state laws, state executive orders are also enforced by local law enforcement and local state’s attorneys.”
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.