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Illinois restaurants cited for defying indoor dining ban

Ashley Driemeyer said she was cited for not wearing a mask and operating an indoor dining room, though she is optimistic that she will not have to pay a fine

BREESE, Ill. — A classic car show is set up outside the Fainting Goat restaurant in Breese, Illinois, Sunday afternoon, one way the owners are luring in new customers. But another recent visitor brought her something else: apologies and a ticket.

"They were forced to be there, and they were just doing their job," restaurant owner Ashley Driemeyer said of the Illinois State Police trooper and two health officials who came to her restaurant last week. "They were very discreet when they came into my place, but I just felt like they were on my side too. They didn’t want to be doing this to business owners, they want to be supporting us.

Driemeyer says she was cited for not wearing a mask and operating an indoor dining room. At the start of the month, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker told Metro East restaurant owners they'd need to stop all indoor food sales due to high transmission rates, but Driemeyer said she's couldn't afford to follow the rule.

"Everyone in this area has the doors open right now," she said. "They can't afford to close down. I'm just the one that's brave enough to speak up."

"That ticket is not worth the paper it is written on," Driemeyer's attorney Thomas DeVore said. "Legally, I think it's completely unenforceable."

DeVore said he has two clients now dealing with citations. He believes the citations wouldn't hold up in court if they even end up in a courthouse. Instead, he believes this is a pressure tactic by the governor.

"It was a publicity stunt," DeVore said, adding "pure publicity stunt."

Driemeyer said she will continue sales inside and on her patio, adding her sales are now higher than ever.

On Sunday, the seven-day average positivity rate in the Metro East dipped below 8% for the first time in more than a month. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health website, the department would "continue to monitor the region to determine if additional mitigations are needed" if the region's positivity remains between 6.5% and 8%. 

Contact reporter Sara Machi on Facebook and Twitter.