Business owner, customers relieved as mask mandate ends in Illinois

Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 9:02 AM CST
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BELLEVILLE (KMOV.com) -- A change is on the way for many starting Monday. St. Louis County and the state of Illinois are dropping mask mandates, but some business owners said with change comes other issues. However, many are excited for what’s ahead.

“This should’ve been done a long time ago,” Randy Hettenhausen said.

Hettenhausen spent his Sunday at Copper Fire in Belleville celebrating his birthday with friends.

“I’m very ready for it to get back to the new normal,” Rick Shur said.

Shur and Hettenhausen have spent a lot of time together during the pandemic. They and a few friends have a motorcycle group who travels around the Metro East and southern Illinois. They said they’re ready for change to happen, but it’s not just for them.

“It’s gotta be a big relief especially for the business owners like this. They hardly, barely survived during this, especially over here. They had them shut down over and over and over again,” Hettenhausen said.

Business owners across the country have struggled throughout the pandemic. Restaurant owners in Belleville said it’s been hard on them.

“COVID was so hard for us, but it made us better,” Renea Eichholz said.

Eichholz is the co-owner of Copper Fire. She said it’s customers like Hettenhausen and Shur who made her business survive during the pandemic. Now that the mask mandate is coming to an end, Eichholz said things are looking up.

“I keep pinching myself at how exciting it is,” she said.

Despite business looking better and better every weekend, Eichholz said new problems are arising as the COVID aftermath sets in.

“Our labor costs have doubled and our food costs are anywhere from 30 to 50 percent higher,” Eichholz said.

Higher labor and delivery costs are hurting business owners and consumers.

“Everything’s going up and for the normal average person, that’s really tough on them,” Hettenhausen said.

While it’s tough for both parties, Hettenhausen said supporting local businesses will help full circle.

“You need to come out and support your local people here. They put a lot into this to keep it going and get it going. Like I said, it’s their livelihood,” Hettenhausen said.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced at the beginning of the month the mandate would end Feb. 28. Moving forward, no other mitigations remain.