Reopen for business: Return of golf, and some stores, are small steps on road to normal

Under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s modified stay-at-home order, golf courses, many state parks and non-essential businesses re-opened in a limited way Friday.

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Under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s modified stay-at-home order, golf courses were allowed to re-open Friday, albeit with many restrictions.

Under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s modified stay-at-home order, golf courses were allowed to re-open Friday, albeit with many restrictions.

Annie Costabile/Sun-Times.

Accompanied by twittering birds and stuttering sprinklers, they stretched little-used muscles and — for a few hours at least — let themselves believe life had returned to normal.

“You see the leaves growing on the trees and you’re reminded that life exists, instead of watching the death ticker on TV,” said Minh Luu, a surgeon from Wicker Park who was out Friday on the Northwest Side at Indian Boundary Golf Course — his first golf outing in a month.

There were plenty of reminders at Indian Boundary and other area golf courses that things aren’t yet the way they once were, including a sign that read: “Please do not approach staff at a distance of less than 10 feet.”

But few complained about that or about the soggy fairways, caused by heavy rains earlier in the week. Most were just happy to breathe fresh fair, after restrictions were eased Friday on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide stay-at-home order, changes that, in addition to golf courses and many state parks, allowed for the limited reopening of some non-essential retail stores.

Matt Barbato, 27, of Elmhurst, golfed Friday morning with his buddy, Matt Kulling. Neither minded that golf carts weren’t allowed and tee times were spaced further apart than in a pre-coronavirus world.

“It was really refreshing to get back out there,” said Barbato, who hasn’t golfed since the end of February. “The rules weren’t too inhibitive. The pace of play was better. ... The course, considering all the rain, was in pretty good shape. ... We’ve been itching to get out there since they started all this social [distancing].”

Matt Barbato of Elmhurst was out at Indian Boundary Golf Course on Friday.

Matt Barbato of Elmhurst was out at Indian Boundary Golf Course on Friday. Despite restrictions in place due to the pandemic, he said, “the rules weren’t too inhibitive. The pace of play was better.”

Annie Costabile/Sun-Times

Golfers at Indian Boundary and Billy Caldwell Golf Course, also on the Northwest Side, reported no major problems getting Friday tee times, though they said weekend spots were mostly all booked.

Six of the county’s 10 golf courses located on forest preserve land were open Friday, said Carl Vogel, spokesman for the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Another three were too waterlogged to open. Still another remained closed because officials were still figuring out how to reconfigure the facility to accommodate coronavirus restrictions.

Albany Park’s Plant Shop Chicago brought its three employees back to work Friday, but offered only curbside and delivery service. Customers couldn’t come in.

“We are a very small nursery so setting up parameters inside our store won’t work,” said Juan Quezada, the store’s co-founder.

Quezada said the best way to place orders is through their website, where customers can select between delivery (within the city only, for $10) and pick-up.

“The plant community is very supportive. We have been shown tons and tons of support,” Quezada said. “They’ve bought gift cards, we’ve received a lot of email support and a GoFundMe [page] helped keep our staff paid.”

He added: “We are all happy to be back.”

At Forever Beauty in Rogers Park, the line of customers waiting to pick up their orders had stretched across the storefront by the time the shop opened at 9:30 a.m., said manager Eddie Chi.

“We advertised on social media that we were doing pre-orders before we opened up and we just had an overwhelming number of people ordering,” Chi said. “It was excruciating being out of work for a month, but now we are trying to keep up with our demand.”

Customers are not allowed into the store at 7530 N. Western Ave., Chi said, but staff have placed plexiglass shields at the front of the store to safely hand off items.

“We are only doing pick-ups and deliveries but our staff is all wearing gloves and masks,” Chi said.

Ursula Sanchez, owner of Bow & Meow Pet Spa in Bucktown, said reopening was exciting, but fear of COVID-19 caused some staffing issues.

“We’ve missed so many weeks and now we are bombarded with the business but people are afraid to work,” Sanchez said. “Hell, I’m afraid too.”

The pet spa is booked through mid-June, about 80% of that is for grooming.

“There is a part of me that feels guilty that the businesses next door to me are still shut down,” Sanchez said. “It breaks my heart to see everyone closed.”

Sanchez disinfects customer credit cards before using them and has people place cash into a box. Pawprint stickers on the floor remind customers to stay 6 feet apart.

“Young people, I find, have to be repeatedly told they can’t come into the store without a mask,” Sanchez said. “Our duty as an American is to protect our fellow Americans by wearing a little mask, and I have to remind those 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds often.”

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