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For Rock County businesses, lifting restrictions and summer setting in means a good year ahead

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- Businesses in Rock County have June 8 circled on their calendars now that county health officials say they'll be able to reopen to 100 percent capacity on that date.

Health officials say Rock County is averaging about 8 new cases per day, there are fewer than 200 active cases for the first time since mid-March and hospitals are only treating 8-15 COVID patients at any one time.

It was just three weeks ago that the county removed its mask mandate, after the CDC announced fully-vaccinated people don't need to wear them.

"It's been a good few weeks," said Richard Neeno, owner of Lark Market and Restaurant in Janesville. "We've had no issues with the transition."

He and his wife Joan were a bit uneasy when they took the "Masks Required" sign out of their window at Lark Market on May 14.

"That wasn't an easy decision, to be honest with you," Joan told 27 News at the time.

The apprehension, however, melted away quickly.

"Those who wish to (wear masks) continue to, and those who don't haven't," Richard said.

The staff at Lark Restaurant decided to continue wearing masks for now.

"It's just their comfort," Richard said.

Now, they'll meet to decide whether to fill 100 percent of their tables starting next Tuesday.

Richard says they'll likely fill most of the tables inside, but it won't be all that essential.

"This time of year, outside seating becomes paramount, frankly," he said. "And that will drive more business than the ability to have full tables or all tables available inside."

One hundred percent capacity will mean a jam-packed summer throughout Janesville.

"For us, that translates to economic impact," said Christine Rebout, with the Janesville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

She says events this summer can be as big as ever.

"The National Water Ski Show Tournament will be this August," she said. "This allows us to pack the grandstand and really bring an unlimited number of people."

Rebout says 100 percent capacity will also help smaller, nonprofit event organizers.

"They need it now more than ever," she said.

Businesses like Lark Market who rely on profits each day are embracing the reopening.

"We're delighted to have people come visit," Richard said.

Like everywhere else, Rock County business are allowed to require masks or other protocols if they like. Rebout says it's probably a good idea to have a mask with you just in case.

She also suggested giving an extra donation next time you attend an event to help with organizations who had to cancel last year.

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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