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Restaurants gearing up for full reopening as Phase 5 COVID-19 guidelines draw near

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PEORIA (HOI) -- With Phase 5 of COVID-19 mitigations set to take place Friday, local restaurants are ready for a rise in business.

"Everybody is busy - everybody likes to be outside," said Hugh Higgins, owner of Hearth Restaurant in Peoria Heights. "Now that you can go full-bore inside, it's going to be a tremendous lift financially for all of us."

Kelleher's Irish Pub & Eatery in Peoria is gearing up for the good news, and even throwing a special outdoor bash - with a band - to celebrate.

"Let's open up the summer - let's get going again," owner Pat Sullivan said. "We're trying to help get 4th of July going - There's all kinds of things that people want to do. And I think we need it."

The state is on pace to reopen “all sectors of the economy” on Friday.

Some restaurant owners say it’s a chance to welcome more visitors and increase their hours - others aren't so sure.

Sullivan says he only has enough staff to cover one third of the space, so right now, he is closing earlier.

"We're real short of waitstaff and real short of back-of-the-house. Everybody is," Sullivan said.

While local restaurants have some differences in how they plan to approach Phase 5, owners say one thing is for sure - support from the community is a big part of how they even made it to this moment.

"The restrictions were applied and we had to shut down - and that came out March 15. The next day - March 16 - the phone rang. Customers buying gift certificates and supporting us from the get-go," Higgins said.

Owners agree there is still a lot of ground to cover, but they hope this summer will help speed up the process - thanks to warm weather and a fresh group of college students looking for work.

Harry Croton

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