Illinois Threatens to Fine Defiant Businesses as Reopening Tensions Rise Nationally


The owners of restaurants, bars and other establishments in Illinois that open too soon can now be charged with a Class A misdemeanor under a measure enacted by the governor.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, filed an emergency rule on Friday that his office said was intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as a growing number of businesses defy stay-at-home orders across the country.

In Illinois, where a stay-at-home order remains in effect through May, a Class A misdemeanor carries a punishment of up to a year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. The rule also applies to businesses such as barbershops and gyms, according to Mr. Pritzker’s office.

Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokeswoman for Mr. Pritzker, said in an email Sunday that the measure provided an “additional enforcement tool for businesses that refuse to comply with the most critical aspects of the stay-at-home order.”

As of Sunday, 4,177 people had died from Covid-19 in Illinois, according to state health officials, and there have been 94,191 confirmed cases of the virus.

Conservative state lawmakers have criticized the measure. Senator Dan McConchie, a Republican and a member of the Senate’s Public Health Committee, called it “an affront to the separation of powers” in a Twitter post on Sunday.

“Legislatures make laws,” Mr. McConchie said. “Governors enforce them. Period.”

In Texas this month, a salon owner in Dallas was jailed for defying state and county orders for nonessential establishments to remain closed. The state Supreme Court ordered her release two days later. And last Sunday in Colorado, a restaurant that reopened for sit-down dining on Mother’s Day was shut down and had its license suspended.

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