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Illinois coffee shop welcomes customers back for indoor dining after months-long closure

The owner of Cool Beanz Coffee House says she wanted to keep her dining room closed to customers until her staff had the opportunity to get vaccinated.

For the first time since November, customers can enjoy a cup of coffee inside Cool Beanz Coffee House. The coffee shop's owner closed the dining room last year as COVID-19 cases were spiking locally and nationwide. 

A second shutdown in Illinois shortly followed, and while mitigations on indoor dining lifted in Region Two in January, owner Annette Hutto decided to keep indoor dining closed until the staff had the opportunity to get vaccinated.

"That was an important threshold for us, to make sure they were safe around unmasked people," Hutto says.

Now, she says she's happy to welcome customers back. 

"After a year of having it very quiet in here, it's nice to hear that coffee shop buzz, the grinder in the background and glasses clinking and lots of conversation," Hutto says. 

That excitement comes with some hesitation though. Region Two of Illinois, which includes parts of the Quad Cities, is reaching the eight percent positivity rate threshold. If the region exceeds that threshold for more than three days, that could potentially trigger Tier One mitigation efforts from the state. That would limit indoor dining from 50 percent to 25 percent again. 

"We have control of this," Janet Hill, Chief Operating Officer with the Rock Island County Public Health Department, says. "We know we have the tools to get through the pandemic, like mass vaccinations, watching distance, wearing face masks and washing hands."

Hutto says she'll follow mitigation efforts if indoor dining is limited again. But hopefully, customers can continue to enjoy dine-in. 

"Everything else can be replaced right, (but) not people," she says. "I'm happy people in the community are moving in a direction where they feel safe and it is safe."

Augustana College students Jenna and Mia say they feel safe dining in. 

"I think it means a lot to me because we haven't been able to do this all year," Jenna says. 

Catching up before class is something they say is important to them. 

"It's really easy to just come down the street before class and now that's its open we can sit in and enjoy each others company again," Mia says. 

Hutto says customers have missed the experience of dine-in at the coffee shop. She says they got through the months-long closure with the help of the PPP loan and other grants to pay their bills and employees. Their new drive-thru, just a couple blocks away, has also kept things going.