From a memo by Economic Development Director Garret Anderson in the Woodstock City Council agenda for tonight:
Restore Woodstock Program
As discussed at the Emergency City Council Meeting on May 12th, the City of Woodstock intends to encourage local businesses to offer certain expanded opportunities for their customers, which are consistent with the Restore Illinois Phased Plan.
Since this meeting, the McHenry County Economic Development Corporation has announced the results of a survey indicating an estimated average for business survival at 13.5 weeks.
Assisting our local businesses to adhere to current public safety guidelines, while still operating at some capacity, is also imperative for the economic health and future of our community.
Furthermore, the State of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court recently overturned Governor Tony Evers “Safer-At-Home” Order, indicating the Governor exceeded his statutory authority.
As a result, many businesses in Wisconsin have already or are in the process of reopening, which will place additional pressure on McHenry County due to their close proximity.
It may be both advantageous to our own local economy, as well as to protect the public health, by supporting local businesses with safe avenues to provide these same services to the public, instead of having residents potentially cross State lines, entering into an uncontrolled setting.
Members of the McHenry County Council of Governments (MCCG) have been proactively discussing various initiatives to properly protect public health while balancing the need to support the local business community to minimize future closings and bankruptcies, as well as the associated loss of jobs for their respective residents.
Therefore, many McHenry County communities are expected to also be reviewing similar approaches to assist their local businesses during this time of crisis.
It is important to note, based on discussions with a number of business owners, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA), previously viewed as beneficial, are not providing the assistance originally anticipated.
Many businesses that have received these loans are effectively shut down, with minimal payroll costs.
While the PPP loans are forgivable, and this feature has been viewed as a great benefit by those in the business community, the SBA requires 75% of the loan to be spent on payroll over an eight-week period.
Without the ability for these businesses to fully operate, which has led to severe reductions in their workforce, and combined with enhanced unemployment benefits that have resulted in many workers being better off financially than when they were working, the underlying concept for these loans is ineffective for many of our businesses.
The SBA has implemented the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance programs.
However, while many of our local businesses have applied, at this point none of them have been notified concerning their approval for this loan.
In addition, the EIDL Advance Program is limited to $10,000, and business owners have to weigh the need to continue to borrow funds to cover basic operating costs that are unavoidable, thus leveraging their businesses even further, versus closing their business to limit the ongoing damage and preserve whatever still financially remains.
The City of Woodstock’s Emergency Small Business Assistance Loan program has been able to help over 50 local businesses with $5,000 low-interest loans.
However, this amount is not enough for many of our larger small businesses, especially as the timeframe involved continues to be prolonged.
The goals as discussed in the Emergency Council meeting are firstly, to maintain compliance with the Illinois Stay-at-Home Order and the Restore Illinois Plan, and to protect the safety and welfare of the people of Woodstock.
Secondly, the City desires to assist Woodstock residents and businesses to open safely and responsibly, while getting employees back to work as soon as possible.
Thirdly, the City intends to be mindful of all business locations and types within Woodstock.
What follows is a summary of the allowances granted to Illinoisans through the Restore Illinois Plan, in relation to certain business categories.
• Within the guidelines for Phases 1, 2 and 3, restaurants can be “Open for delivery, pickup, and drive through only.”
• Until Illinois reaches Phase 4 of the Plan, dining inside of a restaurant is still inappropriate, for the safety of the staff and customers. Even within Phase 4, restaurants will operate with capacity limits.
• Until Phase 4 is reached, the on-site outdoor dining areas which are operated by Illinois restaurants are still not authorized for seating of customers.
• In Phase 1, “Essential stores are open with strict restrictions; Non-essential stores are closed.”
• In Phase 2, “Non-essential stores are open for delivery and curbside pickup.”
• In Phases 3 and 4, retail establishments can be open with capacity limits, and approved safety guidelines.
3. Other Businesses:
• Phase 1 and 2, employees of “non-essential businesses” are required to “work from home except for Minimum Basic Operations.”
• In Phases 3 and 4, employees may return to work with safety guidelines in place.
4. Outdoor Recreation:
• In Phase 1, walking and biking are permitted in public open spaces.
• Within Phase 2, socially distant activities such as golf and fishing are now permitted.
• Within Phase 3, State Parks are re-opened and “activities permitted in groups of 10 or fewer with social distancing.”
• In Phase 4 all outdoor recreation is allowed.
The City of Woodstock encourages local Restaurants and Bars to expand their current operations in the following ways with appropriate public safety measures, effective immediately:
– The City of Woodstock will provide picnic tables or other similar seating options on City-owned property such as sidewalks, parking spaces or green spaces, which are near to restaurants that will be properly spaced and signed. These tables are placed for the convenience of take-out and delivery customers to enjoy their meal, including alcohol, while exercising proper social distancing. This outdoor seating arrangement will be reassessed once a local Phase 4 has been determined.
– The City will repurpose picnic tables already located in pavilions throughout the City’s parks (i.e., a total of 40 picnic tables and 4 handicap picnic tables). This will also help to limit the attraction of unauthorized gatherings to these park facilities, which would exceed the Governor’s current order. Just as with picnic tables placed in City Parks, the City will not routinely clean or disinfect such tables. Take-out and delivery customers are encouraged to bring tablecloths or disinfectant as appropriate, in a similar manner to which they might use such tables in a public park.
– Restaurants, which are not immediately adjacent to such public spaces, may also enter into a temporary lease agreement with the City of Woodstock to convert outdoor spaces adjacent to their restaurant into temporary public spaces to accept delivery, or for patrons to enjoy their take-out meals, with some limitations. Business owners should assess and prepare for the potential risks of such a change and should make such decisions in consultation with their attorney and insurance provider before moving forward. In addition, liquor license holders should continue to monitor the Illinois Liquor Control Commission guidance to ensure compliance.
– In both cases, the City of Woodstock Economic Development staff will reach out to all Restaurants in Woodstock to make the owners aware of these opportunities. It is expected that if interested, the business owner will cooperate in obtaining the consent of the landowner and a proposed lease price. According to current State of Illinois guidelines, the landowner cannot be the same entity as the restaurant owner.
– The attached Ordinance grants the authority for the City Manager to approve such leases within certain guidelines.
– The City Manager is to ensure, as best as possible, that the following guidelines are met, as well as any site-specific accommodations that the City Manager may deem appropriate:
o Tables will be placed by the City into such public space and shall be arranged as to provide adequate social distance between patrons and delivery staff.
o Patrons shall wear facemasks when not eating, and when moving about the space.
o Restaurant or bar staff will not take orders at these dining areas, but may enter the area to make a delivery of food to patrons seated in the area. Any such staff should wear appropriate PPE.
o Upon approval by the Liquor Commissioner, patrons within these public spaces will be allowed to consume alcohol, which has been obtained through delivery or take-out from a nearby establishment. Any take-out or delivery of alcohol within these public dining areas must be in its original packaging and may only be consumed on-site. No patron will be permitted to bring their own alcohol to the dining area.
– In the downtown, each restaurant has already been granted two parking spaces for pickup and delivery. In working with a business to convert nearby parking stalls to public dining areas, the City Manager shall work with the businesses to determine a plan that will balance the preservation of spaces to be used for pickup/delivery, and spaces to be used to allow customers to eat their delivery/take out meal nearby. The spaces used for these two uses will not exceed the number of spaces adjacent to the restaurant location.
– With the combined request of two or more businesses, portions of City Streets may be closed to accommodate a larger seating area, as approved by the City Manager, with appropriate deference to maintaining the ability of neighboring retail and restaurant businesses to maintain the ability to fulfill curbside deliveries.
– While any restaurant may make this request, those restaurants which already offer drive thru service are lower priority for temporary public dining areas. The City’s initial focus will be related to sit-down restaurants.
– Consistent with the Restore Illinois guidelines for Outdoor Recreation, dining within these seating areas during Phase 2 should be focused on single and double occupancy, and limited to those individuals already quarantining together. As McHenry County progresses to Phase 3, groups of up to 10 may enjoy the space with appropriate social distancing and utilization of masks. The City of Woodstock encourages local Retail and Service Businesses to expand their current operations in the following ways, effective immediately:
– Woodstock Public Works can provide cones to designate reserved parking spaces for curbside pickup within parking spaces adjacent to any retail or service location which makes typical use of public parking areas. Two such cones were provided for each restaurant during the Phase 1 closure of dining rooms. This arrangement will be reevaluated when the State of Illinois achieves Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan.
– The City reminds local businesses that the Governor’s Executive Order of March 20th (which has been extended) allows for certain categories of retail and service businesses to remain open to customers as “essential,” with appropriate distancing, but without the need for curbside pickup. The remaining locations are to serve customers, as of Phase 2, through curbside pickup or delivery. Each business is encouraged to evaluate their mix of retail offerings to determine if appropriate changes can be made. Business owners should assess and prepare for the potential risks of such a change and should make such decisions in consultation with their attorney and insurance provider before moving forward. These “essential” businesses include:
o “Stores that sell groceries and medicine. Grocery stores, pharmacies, certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of groceries, canned food, dry goods, frozen foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supplies, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products). This includes stores that sell groceries, medicine, including medication not requiring a medical prescription, and also that sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences and Essential Businesses and Operations;”
o “Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation. Gas stations and autosupply, auto-repair, and related facilities and bicycle shops and related facilities;”
o “Financial institutions. Banks, currency exchanges, consumer lenders, including but not limited, to payday lenders, pawnbrokers, consumer installment lenders and sales finance lenders, credit unions, appraisers, title companies, financial markets, trading and futures exchanges, affiliates of financial institutions, entities that issue bonds, related financial institutions, and institutions selling financial products;”
o “Hardware and supply stores and greenhouses, garden centers, and nurseries. Hardware stores and businesses that sell electrical, plumbing, and heating material, and greenhouses, garden centers, and nurseries;”
o “Laundry services. Laundromats, dry cleaners, industrial laundry services, and laundry service providers;”
o “Supplies to work from home. Businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply products needed for people to work from home;”
o “Supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations. Businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply other Essential Businesses and Operations with the support or materials necessary to operate, including computers, audio and video electronics, household appliances; IT and telecommunication equipment; hardware, paint, flat glass; electrical, plumbing and heating material; sanitary equipment; personal hygiene products; food, food additives, ingredients and components; medical and orthopedic equipment; optics and photography equipment; diagnostics, food and beverages, chemicals, soaps and detergent; and firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers for purposes of safety and security;”
o “Professional services. Professional services, such as legal services, accounting services, insurance services, real estate services (including appraisal and title services).”
– For those business locations, which will continue to serve customers through curbside pickup or delivery within Phase 2, the holding of “Sidewalk Sale” events are discouraged by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s interpretation of the Governor’s Executive Order due to concerns for group gatherings and the handling of merchandise. However, Illinois retailers are encouraged to dress up their storefront window as much as possible and be prepared to take and deliver orders to customers immediately outside the door. It is the City of Woodstock’s interpretation that curbside pickup can include ordering which takes place at the front window of the store. Thus, this action of the City Council will allow the City Administration to work with local retailers to allow for the placement of merchandise on tables or racks on public property outside of the store, providing better visibility and ordering from staff for curbside pickup without entering the store. Such use of the sidewalk would not require a permit, but does require the approval of the City Manager or his designee. Store owners will need to commit to preparing an appropriate queue, which will allow those waiting in line to enjoy social distancing and minimize the number of people at a time at the merchandise racks. Efforts should also be made to minimize the handling of merchandise, and to sanitize areas which may become hightouch surfaces