ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. — On Sept. 1, Jeff Vogt told 5 On Your Side that his business, JV's Downtown Bar and Grill, was down 45% in revenue and that operating during a pandemic caused him to have to cut his staff from 21 employees to 15.
Even then, he had to brace for worse as he was preparing for a round of statewide restrictions that would force him to only operate outdoor service and close two hours earlier than usual.
This week, nearly two months later, and after those restrictions were lifted just weeks ago, he's bracing for their return on Wednesday.
"This past weekend was finally like a normal weekend," Vogt said. "People were out, and they were doing things. They were cautious, if you will. I think they knew things were going to get shut down again, and they wanted to give us a little support."
Vogt said he is not surprised about another round of restrictions because he's been monitoring the numbers.
David Sandusky, who owns BEAST Craft Barbecue, said he isn't surprised either.
"I think we're just numb to it at this point," Sandusky said.
The state's decision to implement the latest restrictions for Illinois' Region 4 comes after the area reported an overall 7-day average positivity rate above 8% for more than three consecutive days.
However, Sandusky's business is in St. Clair County and Vogt's restaurant is in Monroe County. According the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, neither county has had a positivity rate above 8% in the past two weeks.
Meanwhile, other counties in Region 4 like Washington, Bond and Clinton Counties have been well above the threshold over the past two weeks.
"We're really trying really hard, and there are some people that aren't," Sandusky said. "We're all kind of paying the price for it, and that's unfortunate."
Vogt said he hopes the governor will take a closer look at the differences in numbers from county to county, though he admits the regulations by region was a move restaurant owners wanted.
"We wanted the regions because we didn't want to get lumped in with Chicago when it first started," Vogt said.
While the restrictions could be pulled back in two weeks, depending on the data, both business owners are concerned about the seemingly constantly fluctuating data combined with colder months ahead.
"It's raining outside; it's terrible," Vogt said. "The weather's just going to get worse."
Sandusky said, even with heaters, outdoor dining is challenging when it's cold outside.
He has another location in the City of St. Louis, where the current positivity rate is 8.6% but the restrictions aren't as strict on restaurants.
“People tend to feel really differently about it from one side of the river to the other, which is surprising because they’re right next to each other," Sandusky said.
As Metro East businesses head into another set of restrictions, both business owners said they won't step expecting them until there are major steps forward in stopping the spread of the virus.
"Without everyone signing on to make this thing better, we're going to just keep playing this back-and-forth game," Sandusky said."