Marion business owners could have the option of reopening stores and restaurants

By Bethany Rentfro, Staff Reporter

Some local business owners could have the option of reopening in the city of Marion. 

Marion Mayor Mike Absher announced on April 30 the city of Marion will not fine or arrest any business owners who choose to reopen. 

While some business owners are happy with Absher’s decision, others are worried this might be too much too soon. 

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LaVonna Nease, a Marion resident, said in an interview with WSIL-3 News the thought of Marion reopening makes her very emotional. 

“In this society, money is a priority,” Nease said. “You’ve got to have money to live, but we’ve got to protect our people. If this whole little town dies of coronavirus, then what good did the money do?”

Nease also said she is stocked up on disinfectant spray, gloves and face masks because her belief is health should come first. 

“We need to keep our people safe first,” Nease said. 

Steve Witt with Tower Square Pizza in Marion said he is happy that business owners will now have the option to make their own choices. 

“I’ve been doing this for 48 years and I have never seen anything like this,” Witt said. 

Witt also said the employees at the restaurant will continue to keep it as safe as possible. 

“I mean, if we scattered the tables, spread them out, it would be safe for people to come in,” Witt said. 

Tower Square Pizza has been operating under curbside service since Gov. JB Pritzker’s COVID-19 regulations took effect. 

In a statement to Channel 3 News, Absher said Pritzker is not policing his own order and is relying on self-policing and he believes Marion should do the same. 

“There are risks with every decision,” Absher said. “But when it comes down to paying your bills and feeding your family, I can no longer look someone in the face and tell them in good conscience they can no longer do that.” 

Earlier this month, the city of Marion made the decision to furlough 40 employees to curb revenue loss during the state’s stay-at-home order. 

Cody Moake, chief of staff for Absher, said the furloughs saved the city about $30,000 a week in salaries. 

“We don’t know long-term realistically how this is going to affect our finances,” Moake said. 

According to the Southern Illinoisan, Moake said the furloughs were set to expire on April 30 before Pritzker extended the state’s stay-at-home orders. 

In Monday’s press conference, Pritzker said he makes every decision with the needs of the entire state in mind and he wants every Illinoisan to be healthy and safe. 

“Thousands of Illinoisans are still with us today because nearly all of you have made an earnest effort to follow our stay-at-home order,” Pritzker said. “So, that is a decision I’m proud to have made.” 

Staff reporter Bethany Rentfro can be reached via email at [email protected]

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