Restaurants and retailers opened their doors to customers one week ago, and despite some changes for social distancing requirements, most did very well during the opening weekend.
In Phase 3 of Gov. JB Pritzker's "Restore Illinois" plan, which began May 29, restaurants were allowed to open for outdoor dining, and all nonessential retailers were able to open with social distancing requirements.
Laura Rush, communications manager of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, said that opening for Phase 3 was "much needed" for local businesses. The chamber was able to loan fencing to allow some restaurants that don't have patios to open for outdoor seating.
"The businesses were elated to welcome back customers in their shops or on their patios, and judging by the crowds, the customers were happy to be there," she stated in an email. "During COVID-19, our businesses have been very resourceful keeping their customer base, but nothing beats an open door and in-person customer service. We received positive comments, especially from the restaurants the city of Geneva worked with, to create a way for them to have outside dining."
Margaret Perreault, president and CEO of the Batavia Chamber of Commerce, said there was excitement in Batavia about the Phase 3 reopening.
"The weekend was terrific for many of our shops," she stated in an email. "Restaurants quickly accommodated their outdoor patios and were grateful for the city-provided picnic tables throughout our downtown. Many of our downtown stores had a steady stream of business both Saturday and Sunday. Our community has been supportive, very accommodating wearing masks and patiently waiting to enter stores based on their occupancy allowance."
The Batavia Farmers Market was also a big hit over the weekend, as hundreds of residents attended Saturday's opening day.
"Friday and Saturday were tremendous for local business, and we hope for the same [success] this weekend at the farmers market," said Sherri Wilcox Dauskurdas, executive director of Batavia MainStreet in an email. "We're so thankful for everyone who showed up courteously wearing their masks with credit cards in hand, ready to support our local businesses and nearby farmers."
Like Batavia and Geneva, St. Charles businesses have done very well since the Phase 3 reopening.
"The city of St. Charles worked very hard alongside the businesses to help quickly issue outdoor seating permits," said Jenna Sawicki, executive director of the St. Charles Business Alliance. "We are very proud of how quick the turnaround was and how we were able to allow for a lot of our restaurants to reopen. Our retail also seems to be happy to be back in action."
The recent Black Lives Matter protests in Batavia and Geneva have impacted the businesses, as many closed for a day or two. But the retailers are now back open.
"By Thursday afternoon, most boards had been taken down and the shops and restaurants open again for business," Rush stated. "While there had not been a credible threat to downtown Geneva, the boarding up was done as a precautionary measure. However, we did see quite a few businesses remain open on Wednesday with no incident. If surrounding cities possibly have protest or sit-in events in the future, we feel confident that the city of Geneva’s Police Department understands this new normal and will keep our city safe."
Perreault said that while many Batavia business owners closed on Wednesday, they fully supported the rally at the Peg Bond Center.
"Many owners came together prior to the protest to show their alliance, unity and commitment to the cause," she stated. "The police recommended that all businesses be closed on Wednesday, out of an abundance of caution. This, of course, was a setback when reopening and making up for lost revenues over the past several months is most needed. In the end, the protest was peaceful and provoking and will inspire positive, necessary change. The businesses are reopen now."