A number of Greater Peoria businesses are planning to open their doors or expand services starting Friday, as the state moves into Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan.
Movie theaters, gyms, and museums are among the businesses able to open to in-person customers for the first time since March. More retailers also will be able to reopen and restaurants can begin offering indoor dining, with limitations.
State guidance will allow restaurants to seat parties of 10 or fewer. Tables must be 6 feet apart and standing areas are limited to 25% capacity.
John Thomas owns the Forge Steakhouse in Morton. He said they’ve been doing fairly well with outdoor dining, but as the heat and humidity kick up, they’re excited to able to bring customers inside.
“Here in the village of Morton, we’re able to do outdoor dining in our expanded [tented] areas through the end of July,” he said. “We’re going to be continuing that outdoor seating, as well. The good news is with our indoor and our outdoor seating, we’ll be able to seat — at maximum capacity — about 140 people at one time, which is greater than our standard capacity.”
Thomas said they’ll also be able to open the Cyberfire Lounge, a secondary business inside the Forge that offers virtual shooting and golf ranges. He said that will provide entertainment for patrons and bring in more money for the restaurant.
For one Peoria restaurant, it will be their first dine-in experience.
Tan Dang opened Dang Banh Mi & Poke on Main Street after the shelter-in-place order took effect in March. He said they've had success with carry-out orders and curbside pick up, but haven’t been able to fully welcome customers into their dining space.
“We’re really excited to actually have customers sit down and enjoy the atmosphere we have created for them,” Dang said. “A lot of customers have been wondering when they’d be able to do that.”
Many Peoria area yoga studios have been offering online classes since the pandemic, but they’ll now be able to bring clients into the studio.
Betsy Criss owns the Yoga Projekt in Peoria Heights. She said virtual classes were a hit with customers at first, but class sizes began to dwindle over time.
Criss said she's heard from a number of clients ready and willing to practice in person.
“I’ve also had a handful that requested still to offer the classes virtually, because they want to stay home — whether it’s because they live far away or they’re an at-risk population,” she said. “So what we’re going to do is hold the classes in the studio, but still offer a livestream.”
Criss said they’re taking it slow, with two classes offered in the morning and two in the evening. Class sizes will be limited to 12 participants. They're also asking people to bring their own yoga mat and other equipment.
“I have it measured out in the studio space and there’s blue painter’s tape where they line their mats up to, so all of their mats are six feet apart.”
Meanwhile, at OM on the River in downtown Peoria, owner Tammy Mitchell is opting to primarily take yoga clients one-on-one.
Mitchell said her small studio can only accommodate about 23 people at max capacity in normal times. Plus, she said, her practice focuses more on individuals and small, specialized groups.
She said Zoom sessions have proven popular during quarantine—a trend that’s continuing to foster yoga’s sense of community, just in a different way.
“We only see each other for maybe a couple hours a week, but a couple hours every week really adds up,” she said. “There’s a silent support that takes place as we come together and practice together.”
Other indoor recreation options will be available, as well.
Kevin Moody, owner of KAM Shooting Sports in Morton, said he’s been able to stay open throughout the pandemic, because gun stores are considered essential businesses. But some limitations were still in place.
Moody said he restricted the shooting range to members only, using every-other lane to maintain social distancing. That only allowed three people to shoot at a time. Now, he said, they’ll be able to open to the public.
They’ll also be able to host larger classes, Moody said.
“My concealed carry classes are booked through September. I was limiting them to six, then we went to ten,” he said. “Now, we’re going to be able to go to 20 — that’s my maximum class size, anyway.”
Moody said, like many business owners, March and April were the worst two months he has had since opening. Things started to turn around in May. Come June, he said, sales nearly quadrupled what they’d normally be.
While that might sound like a good thing, Moody said it has been hard to keep up with demand.
“Everything’s sold out nationwide,” he said. “On any given day, my number one supplier whose out of Wisconsin, any given day, he’ll have about 2,500 models or firearms that I can order, and he’s down to about 100 models. Ammunition is almost impossible to come by right now.”
The entire state will move into Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan on June 26. In addition to more businesses reopening, the permissible crowd size will be increased to 50 people.
For a list of Peoria area businesses that have agreed to follow the guidance of local and state health officials, visit restorehoi.com.
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