State’s attorney declines to prosecute Washy’s citation

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Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann filed a “motion for nolle prosequi” Thursday, declining to prosecute a citation issued by Illinois State Police to Washy’s Saloon in Waterloo last month when it failed to abide by mitigation efforts as ordered by Gov. JB Pritzker that prohibited indoor service of patrons.

“The citation in this matter states that defendant violated 20 ILCS 2305/8.1, particularly Rule 690.40, by allowing indoor service of patrons,” the filing states. “No such rule exists; however, the state presumes that the citation intended to cite Rule 690.50. Nowhere in (that rule) is indoor service of patrons prohibited.”

On Sept. 17, ISP visited Monroe County to see if bars and restaurants were complying with mitigation measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus in the metro east. Those mitigations have since been lifted in the region.

Washy’s Saloon, located at 1324 Jamie Lane in Waterloo, posted the next day on Facebook that it was one of the businesses “cited” by the ISP for “not following (Gov. JB) Pritzker’s edicts.”

“It’s not worth the paper it’s written on,” the business posted at that time. “If we were breaking any laws, they would have arrested us. We aren’t intimated, governor.”

For its part, the ISP said then that it was only doing its job.

“In response to a consistently high positivity rate in Region 4 and complaints about a small number of businesses violating public health rules, the Illinois Department of Public Health requested assistance from the Illinois State Police in our role of helping to enforce IDPH emergency rules,” ISP Central Acting Deputy Chief Mindy Carroll said at the time. “As outlined in the administrative rule, enforcement is an incremental process starting with a notice of non-compliance. If businesses continue to not comply, as has been the case in some instances in Region 4, state or local law enforcement can issue the business a misdemeanor citation, similar to enforcing indoor smoking laws. Local state’s attorneys determine how to proceed as they would in any other misdemeanor case.”

The attorney representing Washy’s in this case, Bond County attorney Thomas Devore, praised the non-prosecution of his client Thursday on Facebook.

“Remember the big scare when the state police was sent out by our despot governor to fine business owners for indoor dining?  Remember when I said don’t listen to that nonsense because there is no enforceable rule? Well, here is what happens when justice prevails. The Honorable Court dismisses the citation against my client because he was in violation of nothing for operating his business.”

Devore added that he had filed a motion to dismiss the citation.

Washy’s took to Facebook to celebrate the news.

“As expected, the state’s case against us for allowing indoor dining during the latest ‘resurgence mitigation’ was dismissed in court today,” Washy’s posted. “There is NO LAW that prohibits indoor dining. Washy’s Saloon wants to thank John Wagner and the Monroe County Health Department for guidance during the past several months, as well as our attorney Thomas Devore. Since the beginning, we have worked with the health department and followed their direction in all matters related to COVID. They advised that we did not need to close, and we did not.”

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