Region enters 'new territory' as governor threatens liquor licenses of noncomplying businesses

DIXON – With the region entering tighter mitigation restrictions Sunday, the governor is warning noncomplying businesses that the state could take away their liquor and gambling licenses.

Indoor dining will continue to be prohibited at bars and restaurants, as well as lowering outdoor table sizes from 10 to six people. Gathering restrictions will go from 25 to 10, not applying to schools or polling places.

Dixon Mayor Li Arellano Jr. said businesses must have a liquor license from their local municipality as well as the state. If one is revoked, so is the other.

Generally, the city would be the lead on enforcement with license matters, but Gov. JB Pritzker said that the Illinois State Police will be issuing citations to businesses violating the mitigation restrictions and that could lead to taking away their liquor and gambling licenses.

"The question will become what are we required to do locally if the state pulls a license," Arellano said, adding that they're speaking with the city attorney and working on getting clarification. "It will be interesting new territory."

There's also the issue that some officials aren't doing any enforcement, saying that the validity of the governor's executive order is in question because it didn't go through the legislature.

There will likely be more lawsuits in response to the restrictions, Arellano said.

"I think it's going to be a very painful time because businesses are starting to fail," he said. "Unfortunately, there's no easy solution."

Bars and restaurants are the "easiest enforcement target" for the state right now, without having to look at schools or other facilities, he said.

"I'm confident that the bulk of the spread isn't coming from bars and restaurants, but the bulk of the economic damage is," Arellano said.

The Dixon City Council will have a special meeting Monday to go over details of a city small business grant program geared toward bars and restaurants to provide them with aid following the restrictions.

Pritzker is emphasizing that businesses apply for the Business Interruption Grants Program through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity as an option to get some economic relief.

Tighter mitigations came as a result of continuing rising cases and positivity rates in the region, as well as an urgency to curb the spread of the virus.

“It is very serious right now, folks, and if we need to close down restaurants and bars, or take away their liquor licenses, take away their gaming licenses, we will do that,” Pritzker said Thursday. “Because we are now heading into a peak that is beyond, potentially, where we were in March and April.”