As soon as PJ’s Courthouse Tavern in Sycamore opened at 11 a.m. Friday, Colleen and Andrew Beebe of Sycamore and their 20-month-old daughter Caroline were there eating lunch on the restaurant’s sidewalk patio.
“It’s our favorite restaurant, and as soon as it opened up, we wanted to be here,” Colleen Beebe said. “It’s liberating and feels really good to be eating out again at a restaurant. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed it. We’ve had some pickups and carry-outs, but it’s not the same.”
Under Phase 3 of Gov. JB Pritzker’s Restore Illinois reopening plan, restaurants could reopen Friday if they offer outdoor dining with tables six feet apart.
At PJ’s, silverware, cups, plates and menus are disposable and tables and chairs are cleaned and sanitized after customers’ use.
“I’m very happy about being able to reopen, and I’m looking forward to opening up the entire restaurant when it’s allowed,” owner Paul Schwartz said. “Right now, we have 11 tables, which is 25% of my restaurant. Not a lot of businesses can make it at 25%.”
At the Tavern On Lincoln in DeKalb, the eatery opened a new courtyard space which owner John Pappas said will remain a fixture of the restaurant even after indoor dining returns.
Tavern on Lincoln opened at 4 p.m. on Friday, and at 5:30 p.m. seven of the about 20 tables in the courtyard were filled.
"We've taken all the precautions you can possibly take," Pappas said. "We just kind of take it one day at a time. I don't what's going to happen a month from now, two months from now. But so far so good."
Pappas said he had about 18 people working there on Friday. He said they'll be open seven days a week during Phase 3.
One of those employees, server Zab Espinosa, said it's taken an adjustment period to get used to the new status quo.
"I thought it was interesting with where we're at in the country with this whole pandemic," Espinosa said about his reaction when he found the restaurant would be opening back up. "I think it's a change from what we've done in this establishment. We've never done courtyard dining. And with extra precaution and measures, it's definitely given it a little bit of obstacle."
A block down Lincoln Highway in downtown DeKalb, Byers Brewing Company also opened at 4 p.m. Friday.
Owner Megan Byers said they had a handful of customers at the three outside tables available in the first hour and a half.
"It's been kind of a mad dash to get everything ready," Byers said. "We just found out from the city especially that we'd be able to put tables out front because normally we can't. But I think it's been going well so far. I think people have enjoyed being able to sit outside and enjoy a beer."
Like the Tavern on Lincoln, Remmington's Gastropub in Malta was also offering outside seating for the first time.
Server and bartender Adalynne Norman said business had been steady throughout the day. The restaurant opened at noon with about a dozen outdoor tables.
"We've had a lot of local support here in Malta and also DeKalb which has been nice," Norman said. "I was expecting it to be pretty chaotic considering we've never done outdoors before but the support from everyone has been nice."
Hayleigh Meinen and her friend Lexie Pitts, both of DeKalb, ate lunch outside Fatty’s Pub & Grille in DeKalb.
“It’s our first time eating out since the quarantine started,” Meinen said. “It’s a great day to be out because the weather’s nice, there’s a breeze and you don’t have to wear a mask while you eat.”
“It feels normal again, comfortable and safe,” Pitts said. “I’m looking forward to normalcy and going back to work.”
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