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'He doesn't pay the bills' | Why some Metro East restaurants are ignoring Pritzker's new order

Ashley Driemeyer says she lost $3,500 during the last closure, money she can't afford to lose again. So she's keeping her dining room open despite a new state order.

POCAHONTAS, Ill. — When Ashley Driemeyer opened her second Fainting Goat location on Sept.1, the timing was not ideal. 

"Same day," she said. "It was the same day."

On Sept. 1, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) outlined new rules for restaurants in Region 4, including the decision to close them to indoor dining.

"We complied the first time around," she said. "We did our due diligence, but there was nothing that there to help us now."

Driemeyer says she lost $3,500 in food costs during the last closure, money she cannot afford to lose again.

"If I would have to comply with our governor's new mandate, it would bankrupt me," she said.

"I've heard the story over and over and over again: 'We can't afford this anymore,'" attorney Thomas DeVore said.

DeVore sides with Driemeyer and says she is legally allowed to keep her doors open.

"The fact of the matter is, you cannot shut down a business to be off-limit to the public without a court order," he said, adding, "And certainly the department of health can't just create some guidance that says 'OK, nobody can come inside your building anymore' when the law is crystal clear that it says you need a court order to do so."

DeVore says he has heard of hundreds of southwest Illinois restaurants following Driemeyer's decision to stay open indoors. He also takes issue with the change in regulations for allowing gaming inside.

"Think about that. You can go into this facility and put your money into a poker machine, but you can’t go and get something to eat. We are intelligent people. There’s no way to rationalize that," he said.

As Driemeyer continues indoor service, she says the customers keep coming.

"The response has been overwhelming to the point where I am literally running to get food every day because my food order isn't big enough to support the outpour from the community," she said.

Although a sign on the front door under the restaurant's donkey logo welcomes customers to "butt on in," one person who is likely exempt from that offer is the governor and his mandate.

"He doesn't pay the bills. I have no choice but to keep my doors open," Driemeyer said.

Contact reporter Sara Machi on Facebook and Twitter.

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