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Niko's Tavern employees to wear masks, despite objecting Facebook post

Niko's Red Mill Tavern, 1040 Lake Ave., Woodstock, erected a large white tent to accommodate outdoor dining in phase three of Gov. JB Pritzker's Restore Illinois plan. The tent is likely to remain a fixture throughout the summer, owner Niko Kanakaris said.
Niko's Red Mill Tavern, 1040 Lake Ave., Woodstock, erected a large white tent to accommodate outdoor dining in phase three of Gov. JB Pritzker's Restore Illinois plan. The tent is likely to remain a fixture throughout the summer, owner Niko Kanakaris said.

A local restaurateur has gone back on a claim that none of his employees would wear face masks as the state entered Phase 3 of Gov. JB Pritzker’s five-phase Restore Illinois plan.

Niko Kanakaris operates several businesses throughout the area, including taverns in Woodstock, Pingree Grove and Marengo. Before Kanakaris opened his business for outdoor dining Friday, he took to Facebook to announce that employees would not be wearing masks, although that’s no longer the case.

“For all you ppl who agree or not agree with me. We Will NOT be wearing face masks. None of our locations will be wearing them,” Kanakaris wrote. “Niko’s Woodstock, Pingree grove And Clasens in Union. Sorry if your offended. We might not be the place for you if that’s a concern.”

The post has since been deleted.

Kanakaris also has spaced out seating at each of his locations, to ensure diners practice social distancing, he said.

Niko’s Red Mill Tavern, 1040 Lake Ave., Woodstock, also erected a large white tent to accommodate outdoor dining. By dedicating a number of parking spaces for tables, Niko’s Red Mill Tavern now can seat about 300 people outside, Kananaris said, adding that the tent likely will remain a fixture throughout the summer.

Reached by phone Monday, Kanakaris said he originally thought it was optional for employees to wear masks, and believes that doing so should be an individual choice.

The post garnered concern among some commenters who vowed never to visit one of Kanakaris’ businesses again.

By the time business opened Friday, however, employees were instructed to wear masks, after Kanakaris learned it was a requirement.

“The mayor brought it to our attention on Thursday,” he said.

Servers and cooks at each of Kanakaris’ restaurants will continue to wear masks, although servers are permitted to remove them while they’re not interacting with customers, Kanakaris said.

“When they go up to a table they wear them and then when they leave a table, they pull them back down,” he said.

Despite a temporary lull in business since the statewide COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, Kanakaris’ businesses are booming now that some restrictions have been lifted, he said.

“It was a tremendous weekend,” Kanakaris said. “Record-breaking.”

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