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Examining how Illinois restaurants, bars, supermarkets and other businesses are being impacted by COVID-19

March 25, 2020

In this article:

  • How are sales at local restaurants, bars, lodging places, retail shops, and supermarkets across Illinois faring amid the COVID-19 outbreak?
  • We will also be drilling down and looking at the impact of businesses in the Chicago area, specifically

On January 24th, a woman in Chicago tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after returning from Wuhan, China. The case was only the second in the entire country, making Illinois, and the Chicago area in particular, one of the first major epicenters of what has now become a global pandemic.

The Womply Research team has been analyzing revenue trends at millions of small, local businesses across the country. We’re trying to size up the COVID-19 crisis’ impact on local businesses like restaurants, retail shops, lodging places, supermarkets, entertainment venues, and more.

Illinois Governor, J.B. Pritzker, issued a disaster proclamation on March 9th. Since then, state and county officials around the state have been implementing serious restrictions to stem the spread of the virus. This report examines exactly *how much* Illinois businesses have been impacted.

About this report: The charts below automatically update every day. They show a daily view of average 2020 revenue for Illinois businesses in a particular category compared to the closest day of the week in 2019. 

Check back regularly to see how the local business economy in Illinois is faring. 

Illinois restaurants saw sales plummet on March 16th

The chart below shows all revenue for restaurants across the state of Illinois each day of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. As you can see, restaurant sales appeared to be mostly unaffected through February and even into March, despite the rapid pace at which the virus was spreading in the state. 

IL restaurant sales, YTD

Sales took their first major drop on March 9th, the day Governor Pritzker announced a statewide disaster proclamation, dropping down to 20% below 2019’s figures. Sales remained slow, then tumbled to a 57% decrease after a statewide order for all restaurants to close to all but takeout orders only.

Let’s take a look at Chicago, where the outbreak has been most severe.

Chicago area restaurant sales, YTD

As you can see, Chicago area restaurants have followed nearly the exact trend as those across the state of Illinois. First dropping on March 9th after the statewide disaster proclamation, then dropping to a 62% decrease on March 17th.

Illinois bars have also been hit hard

The trendline for bars across the state has been pretty spiky all year, swinging between near 20% increases and dropping to near 40% decreases compared to 2020.

IL bar/lounge sales, YTD

Bars also appeared to be impacted by March 9th’s emergency declaration, only for revenue to rebound the next day. Sales then fluctuated until March 17th, when bars across the state were ordered close to takeout only services.

Chicago area bars followed a similar pattern:

Chicago area bar/lounge sales, YTD


As late as March 7th, when Cook county had six confirmed cases of COVID-19, Chicago area bars were doing better than at the same time in 2019.

Again, sales dropped substantially on March 9th, down to a 34% decrease, then fluctuated over the following days.

On March 16th, knowing bars were set to close the following day, enough Chicago locals decided to go out for “one last drink” that bars saw revenue spike back up to average levels.

The next day, (St. Patrick’s Day, no less), saw sales plummet to a 70% decrease as all bars remained closed to all but takeout orders only.

Illinois hotels and motels have been hit especially hard

Hotels, motels, and other lodging places across the country have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus. Amidst travel restrictions and shelter in place orders, the travel industry is really taking it on the chin, and Illinois is no exception.

IL lodging sales, YTD

Illinois hotels and motels actually saw a couple of harsh drops in revenue as early as late February. On March 11th, though, business for lodging places across the state began a free fall that’s unlikely to recover anytime soon.

The softening travel and tourism market has been especially brutal to Chicago area hotels and motels.

Chicago area lodging sales, YTD

Chicago hotels and motels also experienced a steep drop in revenue starting on the 11th. By the 19th, lodging revenue had sunk all the way to 96% below 2019’s figures.

Illinois supermarkets have seen a surge in sales

Of course, in times of crisis some businesses are decimated while others are overrun. And as Americans have been clearing out supermarkets and grocery stores in preparation for lockdowns and social isolation.

Here’s how things have shaken out so far at Illinois grocery stores and supermarkets:

IL grocery sales, YTD

Sales shot up on March 12th, doubling 2019’s figures. They continued to skyrocket to a 185% increase the very next day as announcements like the cancellation of Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day parade made it clear the situation in Illinois was extremely serious.

Sales spiked to a +180% increase again on the 20th as shoppers across Illinois stocked up for the “stay-at-home” order starting on March 21st.

Chicago area grocery stores were hit even harder.

Chicago area grocery sales, YTD

Sales jumped to a 200% increase on the 13th, and remained above a 100% increase all the way until the statewide “stay-at-home” order went into place on the 21st.

Just the beginning for tough times in Illinois

The coronavirus outbreak has been felt especially hard in Illinois, and in Chicago in particular. As COVID-19 spreads, and the statewide “stay-at-home” order remains in place, local businesses in Illinois are likely to continue to struggle.

We will update the data in this post on a daily basis and add analysis as the story changes. In the meantime, we’re rooting for local businesses in Illinois and across the country to weather the storm. 

If you run a business, check out for free resources and access to no-interest, no-fee business capital with flexible repayment terms.

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