How ‘closed street’ patio areas are working (or not) for some restaurant owners
Chicago officials have portrayed outdoor dining as a pandemic lifeline for the city’s world-class dining scene. More than a month after the state shut down restaurants, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago officials instituted a plan to close down city streets to vehicular traffic. The Make Way program enables restaurants to serve customers in the middle of the street, in a pandemic environment that’s safer versus indoor dining.
So far eight streets are participating in the program; Jarvis Street in Rogers Park joins the group starting this weekend, according to Block Club Chicago.
The first, Broadway Street in Lakeview, launched on June 12.
The city is working with local chambers which in turn communicate with restaurant owners. A spokesperson for the city’s Business
Affairs and Consumer Protection Department says they’ve been slammed with requests.
Maureen Martino, executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, says the Broadway Street pilot program in June went well, but efforts to arrange followup events on the same street were stymied by the local Chicago Police Department commander. After an extended back-andforth between the chamber, police, and the mayor’s office, she now hopes to hold open streets dining on Broadway on the weekend of July 31.
“We’ve been waiting anxiously for weeks because our commander denied the permit for outdoor dining for anything in the district,” Martino says. “I think he was inundated with so many applications coming in, and he had questions about safety, but it’s been a frustrating process.”
Police approval is required for a permit to set up open street dining, she says, but the department doesn’t provide security or resources for the event itself. The chamber, now responsible for covering essential components like traffic barriers and trash receptacles, is requiring restaurants to pay into a fund to defray the costs of these services.
“We don’t even get a free barricade, a garbage dumpster — nothing,” Martino says. “Everything is paid for by us. People think, ‘Oh it’s just closing a street.’ We have to tell neighbors, set up barricades, bring out tables and get rentals. Not everybody has a lot of tables and chairs they can just bring out of the restaurant.”
Soraya Rendon, owner of Mexican restaurant Chilam Balam, says she was surprised to hear that she’ll have to pay $300 to participate in open street dining on Broadway. Despite the costs, she says Martino and the chamber’s support is essential for the survival of her business, especially as she’s waiting to hear back about a patio permit she submitted a month ago.
Rendon and her team had a rocky pilot launch in June with diners who seemed to confuse open streets dining during a pandemic with an outdoor festival; she describes customers wandering around with drinks, congregating in large groups, and occupying random tables without regard for staff or other patrons.
Despite a difficult first night, however, Rendon says days two and three of the initial open streets run were “wonderful,” and she’s excited to do it again. She also hopes customers will be respectful of the masking and social distancing rules her workers have to enforce. “We have rules for a reason and we’re just following them.”
Over in West Loop, the service roads along Randolph Street are now closed every day for street dining. That gives Randolph Restaurant Row, one of the most popular dining strips in the city, additional seating capacity. Chicago has set a 25-percent limit on indoor dining capacity.
Chicago restauranteur Brendan Sodikoff has two restaurants along Randolph Street — Au Cheval and Maude’s Liquor Bar. While Au Cheval is open for patio service, Maude’s remains closed. It’s not worth reopening Maude’s for outdoor dining, at least for the time being, Sodikoff says.
“This is just the reality, nobody’s winning right now,” Sodikoff says. “If everyone’s willing to hurt a little bit, we’re going to be OK.”
Elsewhere, the city hasn’t been able to implement the program. The Chicago Cubs continue efforts to close Clark Street in front of Wrigleyville.
In Hyde Park, one restaurant owner says she struck out with trying to get 53rd Street closed for dining. Chef and owner Laricia Chandler Baker, or “Chef Fab,” of the Hyde Park vegan and vegetarian-friendly spot Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat, says she would leap an opportunity to set up open streets dining near her 53rd Street restaurant. Ald. Sophia King (4th Ward) was supportive of the idea, but the majority of business owners were concerned about the costs so they voted against the program, according to Baker’s rep.
“It would be wonderful,” says Baker. “There are so many people we can’t fit on the
Joining retailers attempting to control the coronavirus, McDonald’s said Friday it will require in-store customers to wear face masks at all of its 14,000 retailers across the country. But the Chicago-based company won’t eject those who refuse to comply.
McDonald’s said the nationwide mask mandate will take effect Aug. 1.
Customers without a mask will be offered one. If they don’t accept it, their order will be expedited and they will be directed to a pickup location safely distant from others.
Or, in the words of a joint statement from McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger and Mark Salebra, chair of the National Franchise Leadership Alliance, “we’ll put in place additional procedures to take care of them in a friendly, expedited way.
“Additionally, we will provide training for our restaurant staff to ensure they are prepared to address this new policy in a friendly and positive way.”
Starbucks, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Kroger, Publix, Bed Bath & Beyond and Home Depot are among the major retailers now requiring masks nationwide. Target, Old Navy and Banana Republic also will start requiring masks Aug. 1.
The order does not apply to drive-thru service. Most McDonalds are open for drivethru, deliveries and carryouts, but with dining rooms that are closed.
The company said it will pause reopening dining rooms for the next 30 days and add protective panels to better separate employees from customers and one another.
The newest Chicago area Wahlburgers has arrived. The restaurant company’s suburban Chicago location at 825 S. Randall Road in St. Charles opened Tuesday.
The restaurant will abide by all Illinois pandemic reopening guidelines for safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic including PPE for all employees, socially distanced dining options and hand sanitizer stations throughout the location.
“St. Charles holds a very special place in my heart,” said co-owner, New Kids on the Block member and actor Donnie Wahlberg via statement. Wahlberg and his wife, actress Jenny McCarthy, reside in the western suburb. “Like so many in our industry, we’ve faced a lot of setbacks due to the impact of COVID-19, but we are determined to deliver on my promise to bring a safe, exciting and unique dining experience to the Fox Valley.”
The groundbreaking for the the 5,000 square-foot casual restaurant and bar took place in 2019. In addition to indoor dining, the new location (a River North Wahlburgers location is temporarily closed due to the pandemic) also features outdoor seating and a new immersive “Happy Place” area, according to company statement. “The whimsical and social media-friendly corner of the restaurant will include a fun-filled and family-oriented pop-up art exhibit for guests to pose in front of for photos.”
The menu boasts loaded tater tot appetizers, classic burgers and chicken sandwiches, salads, kids meals, signature shakes and more. A full-service bar features cocktails, wine and a variety of beers including the signature Wahlbrewski pale ale.
Takeout and delivery are available via the Wahlburgers app, Doordash and Uber Eats, online at wahltogo.com or by phone at (331) 235-5200. Delivery is available via partners Doordash and Uber Eats.
Watermelon is a slice of Americana, perhaps best enjoyed on a hot summer day. Those cooling, thirst-quenching bites that lead to sweet juicy drips off the chin are a nostalgic part of many childhood memories.
Watermelon originated in Africa 5,000 years ago and was first cultivated in Egypt around 2,000 B.C., where it’s depicted in hieroglyphics and buried with kings to nourish them in the afterlife.
Many countries grow this popular fruit today, which is enjoyed completely, from its flesh and seeds to its rind. Bursting with a diverse set of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals — plant compounds with antioxidant and disease-fighting benefits — watermelon is not only delicious, but healthy too!
A member of the Cucurbitaceae family of plants — along with pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and cantaloupes — watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) grows on a flowering vine and is actually a berry, though it’s commonly referred to as a melon.
With more than 1,200 varieties, watermelon flesh may be red, pink, orange or yellow, and its rind might be striped or solid in varying shades of green, not to mention a number of shapes, sizes and seeded or not seeded.
Watermelons are more than 90% water, and a one-cup serving has a mere 46 calories, yet provides 18% DV (Daily Value, based on 2,000 calories/ day) of vision-protecting vitamin A and 21% DV of antioxidant vitamin C.
Watermelon is an excellent source of lycopene, the powerful antioxidant plant compound associated with health benefits, including fighting cancer, infertility, metabolic syndrome and liver damage (Food & Function, 2019).
Also rich in the amino acid, citrulline, which is linked to lower risk of blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, watermelon has been shown to benefit individuals with prehypertension and hypertension, as well as improve exercise performance in healthy young adults (Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 2017).
Grown in warm climes worldwide, watermelon is available year-round. The best watermelon will be heavy for its size, free from bruises, cuts or dents, and should have a creamy colored spot from ripening on the ground. Once cut from the vine, it’s best eaten within three to four weeks.
Store uncut watermelon in a cold place (50-60 degrees), but not in the refrigerator. Once cut, refrigerate or freeze.
Wash the rind before cutting into cubes, balls, or slices for use in salads, salsas, juice, kabobs for the grill, or frozen into summertime popsicles. For something new, you might want to try roasting the seeds or pickling the rind.
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Tom Zaken and his mom Shaylee Zaken enjoy brunch outside The Bagel on North Broadway in Lake View.
Pandemic street dining in Chicago.
Chef Paul Wahlberg’s famous burgers and more are on the menu at the newly opened Wahlburgers location in St. Charles.
The famous Wahlbrewski beer is among the drink and cocktails options at Wahlburgers.
Bursting with a diverse set of vitamins and minerals, watermelon is delicious and healthy.