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COVID-19 Disruptions: Local Officials Order Bars, Restaurants To Close

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Just a few days ago, it still seemed fine to go to restaurants. Now several states say it's not. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker explained why he put out a statewide order.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JB PRITZKER: I tried earlier this week to appeal to everyone's good judgment to stay home, to avoid bars, not to congregate in crowds. It's unfortunate that many people didn't take that seriously. The time for persuasion and public appeals is over. The time for action is here.

INSKEEP: A bit of frustration there. Same in New York City and Ohio, Washington state, Massachusetts. Kate Grossman is a senior editor with member station WBEZ in Chicago. And I guess you won't be eating out today.

KATE GROSSMAN, BYLINE: Well, today I will. But starting tonight, I will definitely not be eating out.

INSKEEP: Oh, OK. OK. Was there some specific event that made the governor act?

GROSSMAN: Well, there sure was. This was clearly prompted by early St. Patrick's Day celebrations here in Chicago over the weekend, in particular on Saturday afternoon and into the evening. This is, you know, the big weekend. This was the big weekend before St. Patrick's Day, and it is famous in Chicago for partying. And the governor saw the big crowds. And on Saturday, he, you know, tried to say, I'm appealing to your good judgment; please don't do that. But by Sunday, he said, I'm not playing anymore, and we're shutting down.

INSKEEP: How much trouble are restaurant owners and their employees in now?

GROSSMAN: Well, there's deep, deep concern. We had our reporter out yesterday at a - a group of chefs got together to listen to the press conference where the governor announced this news of the closing for dine-in customers. And we have this picture of them congregated with their heads all hanging low as they're listening to the press conference.

You know, it's going to be pretty devastating. You know, they're talking about, you know, closing down. There'll still be, you know, take out and drive-through. But you know, we have an alderman, for example, in Chicago who owns a longstanding restaurant here. And he said 80% of his revenue is dine-in customers, so I think that's pretty common. So there's really deep concern about how this will impact them.

INSKEEP: Although I'm glad you're specifying this is a ban on dine-in customers - that means the restaurant can stay open. They can serve to people who are doing takeout. Is that right?

GROSSMAN: That's right. They can do what they're calling curbside pickup, and they can do drive-through. So hopefully - they'll still have some staff in there, obviously, in the kitchens making food.

INSKEEP: This must be part of a wider shutdown. The schools are closed in Chicago, right?

GROSSMAN: That's right. Well, effective tomorrow morning, no school for two weeks, not just in Chicago but the whole state of Illinois.

INSKEEP: So how quiet have the streets been - or are they going to be getting in Chicago in the next couple of days?

GROSSMAN: Well, you know, it's funny. So I was the coronavirus editor this weekend, and I was furiously at my computer and working all weekend. And then I went out for a walk and there were actually, like, tons of people outside kind of acting normal. I thought - wow, how are you acting normal? Things are so crazy. But people are definitely, you know, social distancing and staying at home. But it was a sunny day yesterday, and people are - were outside.

INSKEEP: You know, I sensed in Washington, D.C., that maybe people were getting out for a final weekend before things really closed down. Maybe that's what's happening in Chicago, too.

GROSSMAN: Yeah, I would imagine people are getting some sunshine.

INSKEEP: A last hurrah.

Kate, thanks so much.

GROSSMAN: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Kate Grossman, senior editor at member station WBEZ in Chicago.

(SOUNDBITE OF GROUNDISLAVA'S "AFTER HOURS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.