OAK PARK, Ill. (CBS) – The COVID-19 mask mandate has been lifted in Illinois – and the Village of Oak Park is continuing with unmasking in accordance with state guidelines.
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As CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported on Monday, some Oak Park restaurants saw customers drop by about 30% when the vaccination mandate went into effect. Now they hope to see business return.
Cozy Corner Restaurant, located at 138 N. Marion St. in downtown Oak Park, has been a staple in the western suburbs for decades. They now serve more than their signature breakfast dishes.
“I haven’t seen this in a long time,” said Alexis Lott of Oak Park
This “it” she was referring to is smiles – real smiles. Lott said she’s been ready for a while now for the day the mask mandate was lifted.
“I’m ready to see people’s faces again!” Lott said.
Cozy Corner owner Peter Gerousis said he is happy they are still in business to welcome a community that has made a difference.
“If it wasn’t for the community – the support we got from them – we wouldn’t have made it,” he said.
The Cozy Corner didn’t get any of the small business or restaurant grants they applied for. Gerousis said the doors are always open and their grills are always hot — thanks to a steady stream of in-person and take-out orders from a supportive community.
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The restaurant persisted even after taking a 30% hit when the vaccine requirement was put in place.
“We hope all of this stuff will come back, and more,” Gerousis said.
A similar story of community support was seen at the nearby Tennis and Fitness Center, 301 Lake St., where more than 100 people continued to pay dues — even when the gym was forced to close.
“You have to come back, you know, back to normal at some point,” said instructor Darrell Robbins.
“Normal” means masks are now optional at the Tennis and Fitness Center – both on the courts and in the Fitness Center.
“Everyone is a bit relieved, I think – not just because the masks are gone, but because we may have gone a little bit past Omicron and COVID and all the rest,” said Steve Berggren, general manager of Tennis. and Fitness Center.
You will still need a mask on public transport and in areas like hospitals and nursing homes. But when it comes to private companies, ultimately it’s up to them, and you, to decide when you’re *comfortable* sharing your smile again.
“We’re all looking forward to, you know, getting back to some kind of normality,” Gerousis said.
“The important thing about this is that people now have a choice,” added Ian Chami of Oak Park.
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Molina also went to another Oak Park restaurant behind Monday and asked if they were going to continue requiring masks and proof of vaccinations. They said they left it to their customers and came out to remove the signage they had announcing these requirements soon after.