When it comes to self-serve food or hot and cold beverages at the convenience store, right now it’s anything but convenient.
Stores no longer can offer self-serve fresh food and beverages, per last week’s executive issued by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in response to COVID-19.
County health departments are helping businesses with the new procedures regarding food handling and safety, said Jeff Deets, Whiteside County director of environmental health.
According to the Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium, “self-service beverage stations, while not recommended, are permitted at this time, provided that they are being sanitized frequently throughout the day.”
Furthermore, the Illinois Department of Public Health recommends that, “those with food service should limit it, as it is highly recommended that customers are not able to serve themselves. The food can be served by an employee, but customer self-serve should be avoided due to the handling of utensils, potential for contamination, and lines where people are in close proximity.”
At local Johnson Oil Shell stations: no coffee, fountain drinks, donuts or sandwiches are available self-serve, and stations that can are serving coffee behind the cashier’s counter, said Kathy Peugh, an executive for Johnson Oil.
County health departments can impose those state limitations at their discretion. Rock Island and Winnebago counties, where Johnson Oil also has stations, have temporarily banned all self-serve foods.
Neither Whiteside nor Ogle counties have ordered such restrictions, but many businesses, like Johnson Oil, are deciding on their own to take extra care.
A call to the Lee County Health Department was not returned Tuesday.
“We shut them down, and the more we thought about it, if it’s germy for them, it’s germy for [others],” Peugh said. “It’s hurting business because people love their coffee, and they love to sit and talk.”.
The company also isn’t refilling beverage cups customers bring in, Peugh said.
“We want to keep our customers and our employees safe,” she said. “Everything is a hard choice and decision.”