Municipalities in McHenry County will largely leave enforcement of COVID-19 business restrictions to other entities, forwarding non-compliance complaints to the McHenry County Department of Health as they come in, their leaders said.
Starting Saturday, bars and restaurants in McHenry and Lake counties will be forced to close to indoor dining as part of Tier 1 mitigations being order by Gov. JB Pritzker.
The announcement of these restrictions came on Wednesday, after the region’s positivity rate surpassed the 8% threshold for the third consecutive day.
Along with the end of indoor dining, bars and restaurants will be required to close by 11 p.m. and may reopen no earlier than 6 a.m. the following morning.
Visitors will have to make reservations ahead of time and tables for outdoor dining must be spaced at least 6 feet apart, according to the state of Illinois COVID-19 Response website.
Mitigation efforts also include a ban on party buses and capacity limitations of 25 guests or 25% of the overall room capacity for both indoor and outdoor meetings and gatherings.
Whether all these new rules will be enforced locally appeared unlikely Friday with multiple area mayors and other entities saying they would take an educational approach.
The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office released a statement Friday, saying it will encourage residents to voluntarily comply with the governor’s order but will not enforce them as a criminal offense.
McHenry County Department of Health spokeswoman Lindsey Salvatelli said on Friday that the department did not have any comment on what their enforcement of the restrictions will look like, and McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally could not be reached for comment.
Crystal Lake Mayor Haig Haleblian said police officers will respond and verbally request compliance if the city receives a complaint about a business not following the indoor dining ban and other restrictions.
If the business still does not comply with the state’s order, the complaint will be forwarded to the McHenry County Department of Health for further investigation.
“As your Mayor, fellow business owner, and neighbor, I can tell you that I wholeheartedly appreciate and feel your pain and angst during these times,” Haleblian said in a Facebook post. “I have heard from residents and businesses on all sides of this matter. It’s a no-win whatever way you look at it. But Crystal Lake will get through this.”
Woodstock and McHenry will both serve in an “educational” instead of an “enforcement” role, mayors Brian Sager and Wayne Jett said in separate Facebook posts. Jett said McHenry will not be issuing citations for violations of the order.
“Many businesses have been pushed to the breaking point and the livelihoods of not only business owners/operators, but the many many people who work in those businesses, are on the verge of being lost,” Jett said. “I believe that we can achieve a balanced response.”
Response to complaints received by Woodstock, including those to the police department, will consist of verbal counseling, except when it comes to upholding the designated closing hours, Sager said in his post. As in Crystal Lake, the complaint would then be forwarded to the health department.
“The City will not be issuing citations for liquor, gaming, or other business violations under the Governor’s Executive Order,” Sager said. “Enforcement efforts may be implemented by state level entities, at their discretion.”
Cary Mayor Mark Kownick said the village will not be enforcing mitigation measures, either.
“If we have a call for service, we will respond and educate regarding the situation and forward any applicable report to the McHenry County Health Department,” Kownick said.
The village will encourage people to make decisions based on their best sense of what they need to be doing, Kownick said.
“I think we have a community that is very prepared to do that,” he added. “We’ve got restaurants that are ready to deliver food, they’re ready for pickup to limit exposure. So there are opportunities, and we’re willing to work with them to the best of our abilities.”
Acting Algonquin Village President Debby Sosine, in a phone interview with the Northwest Herald, said the local health departments will be the ones with the authority and responsibility to enforce the rules in Algonquin as well.
“I hope it’s all over soon,” Sosine said. “And I hope it doesn’t destroy the small businesses in the state of Illinois.”
McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said the county is also focusing on education and remediation.
“If there’s an issue, we want to show them how to do the right thing,” he said. “We’re not looking to close anybody up or give them any fines. We want to just work with them for best practices.”
Franks added that he is asking the state to reconsider and allow indoor dining, and have a limitation on the number of people who can be inside, instead of an outright ban on it altogether.
The Illinois State Police have ramped up random checks of businesses that are subject to mitigation rules, Pritzker, during a Wednesday press conference where he announced mitigation strategies are going into place in McHenry and Lake counties. He said the state police have been progressively taking more stringent action to hold “scofflaws” accountable.
Pritzker urged local officials to carry out the laws and regulations that are on the books.
“When state and national public health experts and their own local public health departments tell them things in their city, their town and their county are getting bad, that more people will get sick and die if they don’t take action, their job as a local elected or appointed leader is to lead, no matter how loudly a minority of people may criticize them, no matter how big of a personal challenge that may be,” Pritzker said.