CHICAGO (CBS) — Indoor dining resumes in Illinois on Friday, as the state enters Phase 4 of reopening for the coronavirus pandemic.
The man behind one of the most successful restaurant groups in Chicago has a request businesses rarely make – for more government regulation.
He told CBS 2’s Tara Molina otherwise, he fears restaurants could be forced to close for good.
“If another restaurant doesn’t do this well, or we fail to do it properly, that’s actually bad for the whole industry,” said Nick Kokonas.
And Kokonas knows the industry well. The co-owner of the award-winning Alinea Group understands what works and what doesn’t.
And while Kokonas is comfortable charting new territory, he says at this point, when it comes to moving forward in the age of COVID-19, everyone needs a better map.
“It would be really, really nice to have liability guidelines for businesses,” he said.
He would like to see a better set of guidelines for restaurants on how to handle a worker who tests positive, and how to keep their doors open after that happens.
“It would be really good to have, I think, open protocols that say when an employees gets it, this is what you need to do step A, B, C, D, E,” Kokonas said.
They’re steps the Alinea Group has navigated on their own. Kokonas says two workers tested positive earlier this month.
They deep-cleaned, and every worker who exposed voluntarily tested and tested negative, at the group’s expense.
“It’s costly,” Kokonas said.
The restaurant group closed for the day – something he Kokonas said isn’t sustainable, especially with the existing guidelines on quarantines.
Those that could make it impossible to stay open. Restaurants are then put in an impossible position – ignore a positive test result or shut down entirely.
“You can imagine that a business that is less robust right now may just say, ‘What we don’t know can’t hurt,’ kind of thing, and that’s pretty scary, I think,” Kokonas said.
So he has a message as we navigate a new phase of reopening.
“It’s incredibly important we have precise guidelines to follow, so not just my business handles this well, but all businesses handle this well and consumer confidence goes back up,” he said.
Molina reached out to Gov. JB Pritzker’s office about this subject, and was directed to the current guidance for restaurants. The State of Illinois and the City of Chicago have each issued guidelines.
We will continue to track any changes as we move into Phase 4.