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Bars, Restaurants Bracing For Colder Weather

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Brasky's Bar and Grill
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Through the summer months, many dining establishments adapted to health and safety guidelines related to COVID-19 by increasing the amount of available outdoor seating.

But with the arrival of fall and cooler temperatures, the attraction of dining outside is likely to diminish. That means restaurant and bar owners like Andy Peugh of Brasky’s Bar and Grill in Peoria are bracing for what might come next.

“We’ll do outdoor seating until it’s just no longer tolerable to sit outside,” said Peugh. “Then we’ll move back inside, and the capacity right now is basically 50% capacity once you’re inside. We’ll just do the best we can with whatever the restrictions are that we have to abide by.”

Peugh said he understands some people are still uncomfortable dining inside and may choose to stay home. But Ray Koeppel, co-owner of the 5th Quarter Sports Bar and Pizzeria in East Peoria, doesn’t expect an unusual decline in patrons.

“We have a big enough space that it won't affect us that much,” said Koeppel. “I’m sure it will; some people only want to be outside. But as far as a drop in business, I’m sure that that happens every year when it gets cold.”

Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich said the city is encouraging business owners to find creative ways to accommodate guests, but that indoor capacity restrictions are unlikely to change.

“If someone wants to utilize outdoor space, we’re certainly going to allow it and try and be flexible with it,” said Urich. “If the space is enclosed, if they're looking at building a tent that would be enclosed outside, then that would be treated very similar to the current indoor seating requirements that are there.”

Koeppel said his bar doesn’t have any difficulty following the health and safety guidelines regarding capacity and social distancing.

“We have all of our tables spaced out far enough and it makes people feel comfortable,” he said. “We can still get 100 people in here without any congestion. So, we’re pretty fortunate.”

Peugh said one of the biggest problems he has faced is people not complying with the state of Illinois’ face coverings mandate.

“That requires customers to wear a mask inside, and when using the restroom, and even ordering their food,” said Peugh. “But there’s people that just either don’t want to wear them, or don’t believe in them, and it’s been challenging for us.”

With the NBA Finals and Major League Baseball playoffs underway and the pro and college football seasons in full swing, Peugh said the games are definitely helping attract customers.

“Honestly, it’s been great. This is the time of year where you have literally all the sports,” he said. “There’s just about everything to watch, so that definitely helps draw people out.”

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