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McHenry County restaurant workers hope to weather COVID-19 closures

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When Doyle's Pub owner Jeanne Doyle was forced to close up shop in the midst of COVID-19 concerns, the restaurateur made the best of a bad situation.

"All we can do is weather this out and hope to God we can reopen someday," she said.

Doyle planned to serve corned beef and sauerkraut to a hungry crowd at her Richmond pub throughout the St. Patrick's Day weekend. However, when Gov. JB Pritzker ordered bars and restaurants to close their in-house dining, she instead chose to donate about 50 pounds of leftover meat and other side dishes to the Kenosha Fire Department in Wisconsin.

"We were shut down, and there’s nothing else we could do with it," Doyle said.

Doyle's Pub is just one of several businesses throughout the state unexpectedly ordered to close its doors in an effort to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Although some restaurants have remained open for carryout and delivery, businesses such as Doyle's rely on their liquor license to bring in customers.

"How’s it been for us? Well, we’re in shock," Doyle said. "I’ve been doing this for 26 years. I don’t know what to do with myself."

In McHenry, the family-owned Kief's Reef also announced a temporary closure until April 1.

"Dear everyone, sadly Kief Reef will be closed to protect our employees and customers from the coronavirus," the restaurant posted to Facebook on Friday. "We appreciate all of you and your business, [and] we hope to see you soon."

A temporary closure can deliver a large blow to small businesses, which have employees who might be eligible for unemployment aid under revised Illinois Department of Employment Security standards.

"All my servers," Doyle said. "This was their only income."

Those out of work because their job temporarily closed could receive benefits as long as he or she is prepared to return to work when the business reopens, according to the IDES.

On Thursday, Pritzker announced additional relief to more than 20,000 small- and medium-sized bars and restaurants across the state. The plan includes a two-month delay in local and state sales tax payments and a waiver of late feeling fees and interest that began Friday.

Small businesses from each Illinois county also are eligible to apply for low-interest coronavirus disaster assistance loans worth as much as $2 million. For information about the loan application process, visit disasterloan.sba.gov.

In the meantime, Doyle is hunkering down at home with a freezer full of cooked corned beef and as optimistic an attitude as she can muster.

"I’m healthy as a horse," she said. "I’m having a bloody Mary as we speak."

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