Restaurant reopens dining room amid pandemic

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FAIRFIELD, Ill. (WEHT) — Nearly two months after the Barb Wire Grill served their last table, their doors are open once again. Unlike others in the area that are only offering pickup, people here are dining in without reservations.

Nobody would tell me that I could or I couldn’t open,” said Amanda Bell.

Bell owns the Barb Wire Grill in Fairfield, Illinois. On March 17th, the restaurant closed down due to the pandemic. Now, seats are full once again.

“Thursday I called the Sheriff’s Department, I called the City Police, I called the Health Department. Everybody kept sending me to somebody else. The Mayor posted he wasn’t going to send police to check up on anything so I took it as ‘Well, there’s my go!’ so I just opened,” said Bell.

“I think this is what people are needing right now. I think they need to know there is a sense of normalcy they can come back to and I’m all about it,” said customer Wes Hutchcraft.

Officials with the Wayne County Health Department tell Eyewitness News they have inspected the restaurant but that the state attorney says since the area doesn’t have wide spread cases the restaurant isn’t posing an eminent threat. This means as long as they operate at half-capacity and practice social distancing and continue cleaning in-between customers, they can stay open for now.

“I’m not worried about it all to be honest,” said Hutchcraft.

“Not everybody can just open, I mean if you have a bunch of cases, you can’t just open,” said Bell.

Bell says her bills were pililng up and she stands by her decision to open, even though the health department says she could face legal action if a future outbreak is linked to her restaurant.

“I mean I believe there is a virus and it is bad, but I think that they crossed the line. We can’t just sit back and be scared the rest of our lives, you know? Everything has to go back to normal,” said Bell.

The health department is discouraging other restaurants in the area to completely reopen, but Bell says she has already heard from multiple other restaurants who are trying to form a plan of their own to open like she did.

FAIRFIELD, Ill. (WEHT) — Almost two months since the last table was seated at the Barb Wire Grill in Fairfield, Illinois, they’re opening their doors once again. Although the owner tells Eyewitness News she’s faced some backlash, she’s not going to let the virus control her life.

According to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Plan, restaurants are not scheduled to reopen until phase 4 of the plan. The sate is currently in phase two which goes until the end of may, but the Barb Wire Grill sat their first tables Tuesday.

This morning, the Wayne County Health Department came to inspect the restaurant and gave them guidelines they must follow in order to remain open. The inspector tells me he contacted the state attorney who told him since the area only had two cases and the virus isn’t wide spread, the businesses wasn’t posing an eminent threat to the area. This means as long as an outbreak doesn’t occur and they followed social distancing practices and operated at half capacity, they could stay open for now. The health department says the state attorney stated the laws are built around containment and not necessarily prevention.

“I believe there is a virus and it is bad but I think that they crossed the line. I mean, we can’t just sit back and be scared the rest of our lives, you know? Everything has to go back to normal,” said Barb Wire Grill Owner Amanda Bell.

The health department says they understand businesses need to generate revenue but they are strongly discouraging other restaurants in the area from reopening their dining rooms as there are several high risk people in the county. For now, Bell says she’s not worried about potentially facing legal action or an outbreak occurring and will continue to serve the community until she can’t.

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(This story was originally published on May 6, 2020)

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