JOLIET – The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday offered a glimpse at how much downtown Joliet businesses depend on the Will County Courthouse and government offices.
“I literally came in today knowing there would be no business, but I would have an opportunity to take down the Christmas tree,” said Gina Duffy, who used Monday to change the decor at Jitters, her Chicago Street coffeehouse and restaurant.
Duffy said she likes being downtown, but knows what it means when county and state government office workers get a holiday.
“When they’re closed, there is nothing down here,” she said.
Some restaurants close when government offices do.
Three business people downtown Monday for a project at Joliet Central High School passed two closed restaurants and asked where they might find lunch.
“I can’t see why anyone would open on a day like this,” said one, who declined to give his name. “Obviously, as you can see, there’s nobody on the streets.”
The streets were not completely empty: The lunch trio found a meal at Route 66 Diner on Clinton Street.
Route 66 Diner owner John Georgouses said business typically drops at least 60 percent on government holidays.
“There are people who come downtown to the casino,” Georgouses said. “But when they’re in the casino, they don’t want to come out.”
One government building was open – the Joliet Public Library across the street from the Route 66 Diner. Library employee Benjamin Klahn was one of a few people eating lunch at the diner counter.
“Kids are off school. People are off work,” Klahn said as he talked about why the library stayed open. “We don’t want to deprive them of their chance to use the Internet and things like that.”
Klahn said the diner is a popular spot for library employees.
Will County officials are planning a new courthouse. Keeping it downtown is a priority for Joliet officials and business leaders. The city also is in the middle of a plan being created in part to put more feet on downtown streets.
More retail would help, Duffy said.
“We need more specialty shops where people would browse through the stores,” she said.