EAST DUBUQUE, Ill. — Outdoor dining will return to East Dubuque restaurants in 2021.
The East Dubuque City Council this week voted, 4-2, to allow businesses to serve customers in parking spaces from 6 a.m. to midnight daily from May 1 to Oct. 24.
Council members allowed outdoor dining during the warmer months of 2020 as restaurants and bars contended with COVID-19 restrictions. They opted to bring the practice back, anticipating that the impacts of the pandemic will stretch further into this year.
“According to what I’m seeing, we have masks until June 2,” City Council Member Robin Pearson said. “I just want something on our agenda and radar.”
East Dubuque’s policy largely mirrors one passed late last year by officials in Galena, Ill., City Manager Loras Herrig said.
“I thought (Galena) did an excellent job,” he said. “If the county would like to consider outdoor seating, I follow strongly that we just follow Galena’s. I think the other discussion would be to keep this in mind and see where we are at in March or April.”
But Pearson, who voted in favor of the measure, said waiting months to decide was too long.
“I don’t want something to come up in April and be like, ‘What are we going to do now?” she said. “I know we are not Galena, but at least we have some kind of protocol in place.”
Council members Adam Arling and Dawn Stelpflug voted against the ordinance, saying they wanted more time to discuss it.
The council also voted to let bars and restaurants with Class H liquor licenses stay open later starting this weekend if Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker loosens COVID-19 related restrictions on bars and restaurants and allows them to do so.
Council members established the Class H licenses last year because of pandemic-related dining restrictions. The new license is less costly than Class B or C licenses most bars and restaurants use and requires businesses to close by 11 p.m. Indoor dining in Jo Daviess County is currently prohibited, but businesses can be open for takeout until 11 p.m.
Herrig said city officials want to be ready in case the governor lifts restrictions on indoor dining.
“I didn’t want them to miss out on a weekend’s worth of business if the governor allows it,” Herrig said.
If the state’s restrictions are lifted, businesses that start operating later would need to amend their liquor licenses ahead of a special council meeting next week.
George’s Bar & Grill, 32 Sinsinawa Ave., is one of the businesses using the Class H liquor license. Owner Jim Ege said if the governor allows later dining times, he would switch back to either a Class B license, which has a closing time of 3:30 a.m., or a Class C license, which has a closing time of 2 a.m.
“We would go back to 2 a.m., and if businesses can be open later, then we’ll go to the 3:30 a.m.,” he said.