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“Employees are our first priority,” Future for bar and restaurant owners unclear during COVID-19 outbreak

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — After Gov. JB Pritzker announced restaurants and bars would close statewide, a group of Rockford area restaurateurs gathered to discuss what would come next. They say their first order of business is to help their employees.

"As I listened to the news today, I looked around at all of the faces of my staff and they were crying and looking to me for some sort of counsel and all I can do is relay as much information and as much confidence as I can," says The Norwegian owner, Emily Hurd.

Every business owner at the meeting agreed on one thing—those who work for them would come first in figuring out what comes next.

"As much as we love to say guests and customers come first our staff is really the people who run our restaurants and those are the ones we want to make sure are taken care of ," says Olympic Tavern manager, Zak Rotello.

"For all of the employees it's trying to find a fit for them in the interim," says Beef-A-Roo owner, Melissa Pratt.

As the companies begin to pick up the pieces of what they say is a major blow, there are a lot of unknowns.

"We all have insurance policies, we've all done the best we can and yet our insurance companies are covering act of God, which if you haven't heard this virus isn't an act of God," Hurd says. "So most of us are trying to figure out some way to deal with the fact that we aren't going to be covered for that."

Even with all of the questions, the restaurant community in Rockford wants everyone to know they are not giving up.

"There is still a battered, but unbroken optimism that is the theme of what has happened here tonight and you should feel really good about that," Hurd says.

Business owners say they're looking at options for pick-up and delivery with more details to come over the next few weeks.