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Local businesses brace for impact new COVID restrictions: ‘We’re not Amazon. We’re not Google.’

“There are guidelines that we’re trying to follow as best we can ... but it does make it very difficult to make ends meet,” said Tony Marquez, owner of EFK Martial Arts in Edgewater. “We’re not this giant company that can take a sustained hit.”

Jun Phan (left), a student at EKF Martial Arts spars with owner and head coach Tony Marquez during a boxing class in June. While group classes are no longer offered under new statewide restrictions, one-on-one classes are still allowed in gyms.
Jun Phan (left), a student at EKF Martial Arts spars with owner and head coach Tony Marquez during a boxing class in June. While group classes are no longer offered under new statewide restrictions, one-on-one classes are still allowed in gyms.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Solidarity Drive on the Museum Campus was especially quiet Friday morning, the first day in which new restrictions aimed at curbing the COVID-19 spike took effect.

With museums closed to the public until further notice, the downtown campus was quiet, as just a few fishermen cast lines into Lake Michigan and three men rode skateboards along the waterfront.

Casinos are temporarily shuttered too, as evidenced by the desolate parking lot of the Rivers Casino in northwest suburban Des Plaines.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced earlier this week that, as of Friday, a host of new restrictions would be placed on public spaces in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

A man fishes in Lake Michigan on the largely empty Museum Campus on Friday, Nov. 20, the first day in which stricter COVID-19 measures took effect. Museums are among the public spaces ordered to close to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A man fishes in Lake Michigan on the largely empty Museum Campus on Friday, the first day of stricter COVID-19 measures. Museums are among the public spaces ordered to close to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Big box retailers must limit their capacity to 25% — down from the 50% capacity still allowed in grocery stores and pharmacies.

Admittance to gyms is also being crunched. No more indoor group classes are allowed, masks are mandatory and capacity also is capped at 25%. It’s a tough balance, some fitness center owners say.

“We understand that we’re part of a bigger system. We need to keep everyone safe,” said Tony Marquez, owner of the EFK Martial Arts in Edgewater. “There are guidelines that we’re trying to follow as best we can, from the city and state, but it does make it very difficult to make ends meet.”

The parking lot of the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines was empty Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 as stricter measures took effect to curb the spread of COVID-19. Casinos across the state were ordered to shut down until further notice.
The parking lot of the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines was empty Friday, as stricter measures took effect to curb the spread of COVID-19. Casinos across the state were ordered to shut down until further notice.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Marquez said his gym typically serves a few hundred clients, but the pandemic has many hesitant to exercise in a shared space. That’s impacted his staff “from top to bottom.”

“We’re not Amazon. We’re not Google,” Marquez added. “We’re not this giant company that can take a sustained hit or actually could leverage the pandemic in order to become more profitable. We are a small business and it’s just very difficult.”

Like gyms, barber shops and salons were ordered to limit what services they can offer. For the time being, beard trims and shaves are off the menu. But some shops, like the Esquire Barber Shop in Andersonville, had never resumed offering those services when they reopened in June after Pritzker’s stay-at-home order.

Tara Williams has worked at Esquire 12 years and said both staff and clients have largely adapted to the safety measures that were already in place before the latest statewide orders.

Hairstylist Tara Williams has worked at Esquire Barber Shop in Andersonville for 12 years.
Hairstylist Tara Williams has worked at Esquire Barber Shop in Andersonville for 12 years. The salon never resumed offering some services, like shaves, that had been banned during the initial stay-home order that took effect in March.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The shop’s client base has held steady, and patrons have little problem with making reservations on the internet and waiting outside until it’s their turn in the barber’s chair.

“We all kind of got adjusted and used to it,” Williams said.

On Friday, state health officials announced another 126 Illinoisans had died of the virus and 13,012 new coronavirus cases were recorded in the state over the previous 24 hours.

Since the pandemic began, more than 11,000 Illinois residents have died of the virus, with the state recording more than 600,000 cases.

Esquire Barber Shop in Andersonville on Friday. The salon’s owner said customers have adjusted to internet reservations and waiting outside until it’s their turn.
Esquire Barber Shop in Andersonville on Friday. The salon’s owner said customers have adjusted to internet reservations and waiting outside until it’s their turn.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times