Time out for bars, restaurants
Owner hopes closings contains coronavirus
By Steve Metsch
Nick Mataragas knows that Gov. JB Pritzker’s decision to close all restaurants and bars in the state to dine-in customers will cost him money, but he understands the importance of the governor’s latest step to combat the spread of coronavirus.
“I don’t want to lose revenue,” said Mataragas, the general manager of Time Out Sports Bar in Countryside. “But we’ll just tough it out for two weeks.”
At a Sunday press conference, Pritzker announced that all restaurants and bars in the state will be closed from the night of March 16 through the end of the month, to prevent the further spread of coronavirus.
“It’s probably the best thing for the United States, for Illinois to help stop this thing. Yeah, that seems fair and reasonable to help stop this virus. We can’t play games with it. I think it can be very serious,” Mataragas said.
“I don’t want to lose revenue,” Mataragas said about an hour after the announcement, “but we’ll just tough it out for two weeks.”
Mataragas is glad take-out and delivery from bars and restaurants will still be permitted during the ban. He said he plans to help his workers financially during the break.
“I’m not shocked (by the governor’s decision). My friend in Ohio told me they just did that,” Mataragas said. “We’ll get through it. It’s a temporary thing.”
Governors in other states have closed bar and restaurants. Indiana has also.
“I’m not going to cry over it. It is what it is,” Mataragas said. “It’s going to be rough, but as a citizen, I think it’s the right move.”
“You can’t have people in close contact. It doesn’t make sense. You’ve got stop it,” Mataragas said.
Just an hour before the governor spoke, Mataragas said business “was down since the middle of the week” when – one after another – pro, amateur and college leagues suspended play.
There were eight people in the bar and the dining area was empty around 2 p.m. Sunday. Normally, he said, it would be packed for the B1G Ten men’s basketball championship game that was postponed.
“This weekend, Saturday, we took a hit. It dropped off after our bingo because people are concerned,” Mataragas said.
Among the few there Sunday was loyal patron Todd Merkel, 59, of Lyons. Replays of sporting events played on TVs above the bar.
“I’m a regular,” Merkel said. “I’m not worried (about the virus). I’m a pretty clean person. I wash my hands all the time.”
The lack of live sports does bother him “because I’m a huge soccer fan.” Merkel cheers Manchester United in England’s Premier League when he’s not following the Cubs and Blackhawks.
“The only good thing about not having sport is if I bet, I won’t have to worry about losing any money,” Merkel quipped.
He’s hoping preventive measures like closing establishments help to slow the virus.
A short drive away, the parking lot was jammed Sunday outside Rafferty’s Irish Pub,10901 W. Joliet Road, Countryside, where a big crowd was inside.
A bartender expressed surprise at the ban. She wondered if it will slow the virus. “Italy has been on lockdown for a couple weeks,” she said, “and people are still dying.”
Over at Kenny’s Irish Pub, 917 W. 55th St., Countryside, there was also a good-sized crowd.
A man who identified himself as a co-owner declined comment: “I don’t know enough information. I don’t feel I know enough about it.”
Walking into the pub, a man who said he owns several restaurants in the suburbs and Chicago said he thought the ban was “overreaction.”
Mataragas, however, said he is confident the governor’s ban will works: “It may take a while, but if we do what we need to do, let’s say two weeks to a month of hardship, I think we’ll be okay.”