Woodstock businesses open doors for Phase 3 of Restore Illinois plan

When Ethereal Confections co-owner Sara Miller learned she’d have to close the doors to her business, she and her employees worked with what they had.

Using menu ingredients and goods typically available for in-store purchase, Miller and her staff got to work assembling grocery boxes made for delivery. A reconfigured window facing the sidewalk allowed for a drive-thru style curbside pickup and online order service, while a weekly fried chicken dinner offered an easy meal option for residents and some reliable income for the business at 140 Cass St.

“Today was a really good day,” Miller said. “Best Friday we had since the shutdown, so it leaves me hopeful.”

The Woodstock Square was alive with the bustle of shoppers and diners Friday as Illinois entered Phase 3 of Gov. JB Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan. Several bars and restaurants in the area entered the third phase with plans to accommodate patrons outdoors. Spaced tables, chairs and benches lined the square’s sidewalk, served as a safer alternative to traditional dine-in options.

It’s that innovative thinking that Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager said has helped the community stay afloat while business is otherwise on hold.

“Frankly, they’re doing extremely well, and people are just really, really excited about being able to go back to the local establishments,” Sager said.

Seated outside the Double Yolk Cafe, 117 E. Van Buren St., Crystal Lake resident Patty Taylor sipped a mimosa and celebrated her 60th birthday with her husband, Tim Taylor, and daughter, Morgan Taylor.

“We try to help the small businesses,” Tim Taylor said. “We’ve been ordering out as much as we can.”

Businesses along Route 47 such as Antioch’s Pizza and Holzlager Brewing Co. drew crowds of their own, with their sidewalk tables and an outdoor beer garden.

“It definitely has been a tough last couple of months,” Holzlager co-owner Mario Cortez said through a mask made of beer mug-printed fabric. “We’re very fortunate that we’ve had a significant amount of support from the community.”

Holzlager Brewing Co., 157 S. Eastwood Drive, has made it through the stay-at-home period by distributing the brewing company’s craft beer to stores and restaurants in the area. They’ll also continue to offer curbside pickup and have introduced new business hours.

“It’s been a roller coaster to say the least, but we’ve been fortunate to have some support,” Cortez said. “Obviously sales are not where we would like them to be, but regardless, we’ve been able to make do with the help of the community.”

John Koziol, who co-owns ShadowView Brewing in Woodstock with his brother, Mark, said they’ll use the rear parking lot for outdoor seating. If it’s popular, they might expand, he said.

If the brewery still were restricted to takeout service only, Koziol said, it might not have been around much longer.

“We’ll [just] go with the flow and see how things are going to progress,” Koziol said. 

Seated at outdoor tables, patios and beer gardens, people were mostly mask-less Friday. Inside, however, face coverings were a requirement – not only at restaurants, but also at small retailers that also were allowed to open their doors with some capacity limitations.

“If [a mask] means that we can go in the store, then I’m happy to do it,” said Jan Jablonski, who had just finished shopping at Interiors Anew, 134 Cass St.

“Do I love wearing a mask? No. But if this is what we have to do to get the stores open and for them to have business, then I’m happy to it.”

Shopping privileges still come with a number of caveats. A sign on the door to Interiors Anew alerted patrons that only four customers are allowed in at a time, while many businesses’ floors are marked with tape to reinforce social distancing. Although looser restrictions are good for business, health precautions will remain in place to protect the larger community, Sager said.

“I just want to express on our behalf the gratitude for the incredible patience and collaboration that has taken place between our residents and our citizens and the combined efforts to make sure that we are supporting our businesses while taking all precautions necessary to protect the health and welfare of our community,” he said.

A full list of Woodstock businesses currently offering outdoor dining, delivery and curbside pickup is available online at www.RealWoodstock.com.

• Northwest Herald reporter Cassie Buchman contributed to this report.

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