PLAINFIELD, IL — “My heart breaks for my staff and everyone trying to responsibly make a living in this industry,” said Jamie Littell, owner of Moe Joe’s, who along with other restaurant owners in the area had to suspend indoor dining once again Aug. 26.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker decided to shut down dining rooms across Will and Kankakee counties after coronavirus cases went up in the region. He made the announcement Aug. 24 and according to him if the numbers improve, there’s a chance that the more-stringent measures affecting the food and beverage industry could be eased eventually.
“From what I am seeing, it’s doing more harm than good, not just the obvious financial hardships that will eliminate mom & pop shops, but also to hardworking people that do not deserve what keeps happening to them over and over with a days notice. There has to be a better way,” Littell said of Pritzker’s response to the pandemic.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the popular Cajun eatery in Plainfield has faced myriad challenges. They had to lay off more than half their employees in May, but instead of giving up on them, the owners decided to host an event and donate the proceeds to help members of the staff.
Last month, Moe Joe’s had to temporarily shut down for a few days after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus. In spite of that, Littell said she is confident they “were and are able to serve our community safely indoors and outdoors respecting social distance and lower capacity guidelines along with all the other guidelines we are already trained to follow.”
“Moe Joe’s has 68 employees and has had just one case of COVID-19 in the seven months,” she said. “We reacted exceeding further than the state, CDC, and WCHD’s guidelines, out of extreme caution for our hometown. As did our neighboring restaurants, we made it public, and didn’t reopen until days later, after the restaurant was professionally sprayed down and sanitized, and employees that came in contact were symptom free and tested negative.”
She said due closing down indoor dining rooms, 80 percent of their seating has been affected, which can go up to 100 percent if the weather is bad. This has also put many of their employees back on unemployment, which “we have found can take months to receive and that is an extreme hardship when it’s forced on families with absolutely no notice, repeatedly, on a scale that seems to be ever changing.”
According to Littell, the new regulations are “unnecessarily harmful” and it is “ethically wrong to ever target or blame an entire group or industry and not the specific area proven to be the problem if they actually want to solve a problem.”
“Especially small businesses that truly care about their towns and the people that live there,” she said. “A lot of heads of municipalities are standing up for their small businesses and restaurants, having faith they can operate responsibly. I applaud them because they are right. Maybe consider penalizing specific places of all kinds that pose a danger or threat to the health of society instead.”
She said even though these rules are daunting, the state did not force it upon them. They are respecting the restrictions because “we all have the same love for our town and want to do our best to keep our community safe.”
“Plainfield is one of a kind because of its residents. Throughout all of this I have been amazed with the amount of support and camaraderie shown to each other and shown to our small businesses,” Littell said. “It is heartwarming, and I am so grateful to call Plainfield my home, run my business and raise my children here.”