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A historical take on new COVID rules

Businesses, cultural institutions and sports facilities in Evanston face new constraints starting Friday -- but the city has been through this before.

The Evanston History Center.

Consider the following quote: “The state’s regulations, which banned public amusements and other gatherings, went into effect everywhere, including Evanston.”

This week? No. That quote, from the Evanston History Center’s current “Time Lines” newsletter, describes the flu pandemic of 1918. Now, 102 years later, the History Center is among Illinois businesses which have to close due to another pandemic, the coronavirus.

“So much of what we do is try to bring history to life,” says Director Eden Juron Pearlman. “Here we are.”

Cultural institutions, indoor recreation centers, and theaters have to close Friday, as Illinois returns to more strict Tier 3 Mitigation. The Quad Indoor Sports facility, for example, is “pausing all activities at 12:01 a.m.,” according to an employee.

Quad Sports owner Bill Kindra says this is the fifth year for his business, and “this was the year to get in the black.” He says “revenues were decimated”after the first shutdown in March. He did reopen, but the state limited facilities such as Quad to 25% of capacity, no leagues, and no competitive sports.

Kindra says so far, upcoming customers are sticking with him, hoping Quad Sports will be able to reopen in January for things such as indoor soccer and lacrosse. He says they would be 90% full if everyone comes back, but it’s been a tough year.

“I’m a small business owner,” he adds. “It’s time for the community to support small businesses.”

The City of Evanston is also indefinitely canceling indoor athletic programs and facility rentals, although camps and non-athletic activities “will continue while following all public health guidelines,” according to a City news release. “Outdoor group activities will be limited to 10 persons or fewer.”

Gyms can remain open, but with fewer clients (25% of the maximum), and no indoor classes. Locker rooms must remain closed.

Personal service businesses, such as hair salons and barber shops, can only have 25% of capacity, which for Evanston’s Salon Antou is ten people including staff.

Owner Jarmen Kordou says she keeps the door locked and customers six feet apart, requires masks, provides hand sanitizer, takes clients’ temperatures, and has installed plexiglass protectors, all in order to stay in business.

Kordou says she’s lost 40% of her customers since the pandemic began in mid-March, largely because senior citizens from long-term care facilities are no longer going out, plus there are fewer Northwestern students in Evanston who used to be clients. “We’re barely surviving,” she says, “but we’re planning to stay open.”

Some cultural institutions, like the Halim Time and Glass museum, never did reopen after the initial shutdown. “We decided to renovate our exhibits and give the building a face lift,” says a representative.

The History Center is open today, but that’s it for the time being. This will be the second shutdown due to the pandemic. “We were going to have candle light tours and a holiday open house,” says Pearlman. But “it’s pretty hard to have a tour on Zoom.” Still, Pearlman says they will “find a way” to have a virtual holiday event, “to give people a holiday experience of the Dawes house and a chance to see its treasures.”

Pearlman says “we’re operating on a shoestring.” Staff members have taken a pay cut, and Pearlman is worried about funding.

Still, the History Center is 125 years old, and Pearlman is confident the community will continue its tradition of support.

Next month, the History Center will unveil a time capsule project, with items and artifacts from our current day, presumably the pandemic and all. “We’re in the history business,” Pearlman says. “It’s our time to collect the material and share it.”

keywords » COID-19

Jeff Hirsh

Jeff Hirsh

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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