HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. – As Illinois begins to reopen amid decreases in COVID-19 cases, state Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, is calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) to consider recommendations from hospitality industry stakeholders to increase the capacity for meetings and events.
“I commend the governor on his leadership throughout the pandemic and appreciate his flexibility in helping businesses across the state reopen,” Crespo said. “Numbers don’t lie, and it is clear that because of the protections put in place, Illinois is seeing a larger decrease in COVID-19 cases than most states. But as we continue to move forward in reopening our state, we must make sure that our hospitality industries are able to regain their footing by being able to responsibly serve greater amounts of people.”
Under Phase 4 guidelines of Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan, the current capacity for meetings and events is no more than 50 people total. Restaurants and bars, however, will be able to reopen for indoor dining on a percentage occupancy basis with no maximum capacity. Crespo, along with industry stakeholders including the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, is urging Pritzker and DCEO to update the capacity for meetings and events to 50% of the approved occupancy of hotels and convention centers as determined by the fire code.
To ensure the safety of employees and attendees, Crespo and the hospitality industry have worked with leading health experts to identify additional safety measures to protect against the spread of COVID-19, including supplying personal protective equipment to attendees, implementing contactless check-ins, spacing tables six feet apart and maintaining guest lists to assist with contact tracing.
“If there is no maximum capacity for restaurants and bars, there is no reason why we should be limiting the number of people who can attend a meeting or an event,” Crespo said. “The majority of those working in hospitality have been furloughed, but face the risk of permanently losing their jobs soon if we are not more flexible with our restrictions on meetings and events. I am confident that implementing additional safety measures will allow hotels and other businesses in the hospitality industry to increase their capacity while protecting both patrons and employees from spreading or contracting the virus.”
According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, over 119,000 hotel industry jobs in Illinois have been lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unless capacity is expanded, Crespo is concerned Illinois will lose business to neighboring states, further hurting workers.
“Many of the hospitality workers whose employment has been affected by the pandemic are Latinos and people of color,” Crespo said. “Communities of color have not only seen higher numbers of cases of COVID-19, but are also experiencing higher levels of unemployment as a result. It is time that we take a step in the right direction to lift up communities that have continued to be underserved and ensure that families across Illinois are able to return to their jobs and make ends meet. I urge Governor Pritzker to immediately consider increasing capacity for meetings and event spaces.”
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