McHenry, Lake Co. Reopening: Businesses Push Past Pandemic

McHenry, Lake Co. Reopening: Businesses Push Past Pandemic


LAKE AND MCHENRY COUNTIES, IL — After a year of juggling myriad restrictions while trying to keep their businesses afloat, restaurants and bars are now grappling with next steps as the state fully reopens. Meanwhile, most recreational options are up and running at pre-COVID speed.

“The people of McHenry County have waited 15 long months for this day. The last of the
capacity limits on our businesses, events, and gatherings — as well as social distancing mandates have been lifted,” said McHenry County Board Chairman Michael Buehler (R-Crystal Lake) in a statement Friday. “McHenry County is open for business, our children will be returning to full-time, in-person learning this fall, and we can once again attend our many summer festivals that make McHenry County unique.”

More than 68 percent of Illinois adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than half are fully vaccinated, according to the governor’s office, which cited data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that reflects Illinois residents who received out-of-state jabs. State health data shows fewer than half of McHenry County and Lake County residents are fully vaccinated.

In McHenry County, 43.30 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and in Lake County, 44.68 percent have received their shots.

Currently, Lake and McHenry counties’ COVID positivity rate is at a record-low 1.3 percent.

In recent weeks, as more has opened up, and residents eager to get out after a year of state-mandated restrictions, restaurants and bars, in particular, have struggled to keep up. Meanwhile, a range of businesses, from gas stations to grocery stores to community pools, are short-staffed.

The Vine Martini & Wine Bar in downtown Grayslake plans to reopen its main bar Friday and add more tables.

“[W]e ask for a little patience with us while we accommodate the increase. Like many other establishments we will be working with less employees and it’s been over a year since we have had the main bar open,” according to a post on the Vine Martini & Wine Bar Facebook page. “We promise that we will work hard to still bring great quality and service to everyone this weekend. Thank you all for the ongoing support over the last year. We’re ready for this and we are thankful to keep doing what we love.”

Meanwhile, Firkin’s owner does not expect to have the Libertyville restaurant set up for full capacity until Monday at the earliest, according to a Daily Herald article. Moving around tables could affect business and staffers over the busy weekend.

“It’s not going to be a flip of the switch,” Paul Slagle, general manager of the Libertyville bar and restaurant Firkin, told the Daily Herald. “It’s going to be a slow process.”

Rhienna McClain, owner of 1776 Restaurant in Crystal Lake, praised her “small but mighty” team. The restaurant has been vocal on social media over the past year, explaining its stance on adhering to state mandates and struggles they’ve faced due to these restrictions.

“It is daunting to really wrap my brain about all of the tragedy, loss, frustrations and changes we have encountered over the last year and a half. Gosh, like most of us, I’m realizing this has been the greatest challenge of my personal and professional life,” she wrote on Facebook.

She says Friday’s reopening provides a welcome sense of “a new normal.” But she said the reopening also leaves her business at “a crossroads to figure out what to do next.”

“Isn’t that what we have been doing this whole time? Evolving and trying to figure out what to change, what to decrease, what to increase, what to save money on, what to spend money on, who to spend time with, what to pour yourself into, what not to, when to walk away and when to lean in,” she wrote.

At Duke’s Alehouse in Crystal Lake, Friday marked the last day of curbside carryout.

“We will still be offering online and in house carryout orders, but starting tomorrow (Friday 6/11) we ask that you check in with our host or bartender upon arrival,” according to a post on Duke’s Facebook page.

Meanwhile, the summer is in full swing at area beaches and pools. Lake Park Beach in Crystal Lake saw a great turnout during its opening weekend, Heidi Stolt, recreation aquatics supervisor for the park district, told Patch.

“Everyone was excited to be out in the sun and in the water,” she said.

Some swimming spots have had to cut hours due to a lifeguard shortage. Nationwide, lifeguards have been hard to hire this summer.

Several suburban park districts have struggled to find qualified lifeguards to safely run their pools. Some teens, and their parents, are not on board with taking on the job amid continued pandemic-related fears.

“Some parents are concerned about COVID in general and are trying to protect their families from it, and there does seem to be a level of our anxiety out there in the teenage population,” Mike Eschenbach of the three-pool Dundee Township Park District told the Chicago Tribune last month.

Meanwhile, area art venues and theaters have been prepping for the reopening. At the Raue, a downtown Crystal Lake theater that can seat 750 people at full capacity, only smaller shows have been taking the stage in recent weeks.

Richard Kuranda, CEO for the Raue Center and founding artistic director for the Williams Street Reparatory, said planning has been underway to bring in bigger shows. The theater isn’t expecting that to happen until this fall.

Until then, the theater is not sure what the public’s interest will be in returning.

“We are surviving, we will be much happier when we are up and running and welcome people back,” Kuranda told Patch in late May. “But, we are nervous. We’ve been testing the waters with smaller shows … but we won’t have our major acts until fall. “

And festivals are back, albeit some with new restrictions in place. Here is a look at some fun events happening this weekend in Lake and McHenry counties:

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