KANSAS CITY, MO. – The governors of Illinois, Massachusetts and Ohio announced the closure of dine-in restaurants to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Foodservice establishments in the states with drive-thru, curb-side pickup and delivery options will be allowed to continue to operate.
“There are no easy decisions to make as we address this unprecedented crisis – we must do what science and experts say will keep people safe,” said Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker in a March 15 Tweet. “With that said, I am ordering all Illinois bars and restaurants to close to the public as of close of business Monday, March 16 through March 30.”
In a March 15 press briefing by the federal coronavirus response team, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “On a day-by-day basis we look at this and literally we will do everything we can to safeguard the health and well-being of the American people. And that means anything and everything we will consider.”
In a follow-up question a reporter asked if that could include closing bars and restaurants.
“That could be, absolutely,” he said. “That could be.”
Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio ordered all bars and restaurants in his state to close at 9 p.m. March 15. He did not commit to a date when the closures will end.
In Massachusetts, Governor Charles D. Baker issued a sweeping order prohibiting more than 25 people from gathering for social activities beginning March 17.
“Any restaurant, bar, or establishment that offers food or drink shall not permit on-premises consumption of food or drink; provided that such establishments may continue to offer food for take-out and by delivery provided that they follow the social distancing protocols set forth in (Massachusetts) Department of Public Health guidance,” the statement said.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a March 15 Tweet that all bars, night clubs, wineries and breweries “should close” in the state. He said restaurants should focus on takeout for consumers isolating and maximize social distancing.
Pritzker praised the Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA) for their help in “troubleshooting” the situation.
“The IRA understands that our members have urgent concerns and questions regarding this closure announcement,” the IRA said. “We are working around the clock with local, state and federal officials to help employers and employees address the short and long-term business concerns around this temporary closure.”
The Massachusetts Restaurant Association (MRA) said the plan is for on-premise dining to resume April 6.
“We do not have all the answers tonight,” the MRA said. “We will continue to get those and provide factual updates as they become available. What we have is 24 hours to plan for a dramatic change in our operating plans and to communicate with our employees.”
There are more than 1 million restaurant locations in the United States and the industry employs approximately 15.6 million, according to the National Restaurant Association.