McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett on Friday signed an executive order allowing outdoor seating in order to increase traffic into restaurants and bars.
The city has designated nine outdoor seating areas, with additional areas to be added soon.
Personal protective equipment, such as facemasks, at these spaces will not be enforced.
“We’re not going to be enforcing the PPE. We’re just asking that they practice proper social distancing and ask families only to stay in those areas. You know, obviously with the masks and they’re eating and drinking and so forth in areas we’re not going to push the PPE,” he said.
Beginning May 1, Gov. JB Pritzker mandated that residents wear masks or cover their face “when in a public place where they can’t maintain a 6-foot social distance.”
The six tables at the designated areas are set 6 feet apart and have capacities of up to 36 people at a time.
Because the outdoor seating is on city property, and not on private property, Jett’s order abides by the governor’s orders, Jett said.
“We’re abiding by the governor’s executive order. I mean, there’s nothing that we’re doing that is so against it. We are just providing public space for restaurants,” he said.
The move will not only help businesses, Jett said, but also the public’s social well-being.
“There’s a lot of people that just go downtown and want to go and enjoy themselves and get out in the nice weather,” he said. “I’m hoping that helps the businesses but at the same time, I hope that this kind of brings some normalcy to the people in the country.”
Police will be monitoring the designated spaces to make sure they don’t become “beer gardens and party spots,” and to ensure people are following the rules.
So far, Jett has not seen any issues, including large congregations or people having to wait in lines.
“Honestly, I’ve been out there 24/7 making sure that people are moving about so that there’s people not waiting for seats and so forth. But, I’m hoping that restaurant owners that are surrounding the area to keep an eye out on it as well,” he said.
There are three designated outdoor seating areas on Green Street, two on Main Street, two on Pearl Street, two on Riverside Street.
The designated spaces can be used by multiple restaurants.
“They’re not designated to certain [restaurants]. They’re just actually areas that are good for flow of traffic and safety,” he said.
Concrete barriers will be put up Monday for safety purposes.