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Front of House Staff Walks Out of Black Sheep Saturday Night; Is This the End?

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The Black Sheep
The Black Sheep
Photo: Tim Hiatt

In the continuing saga of The Black Sheep, Eater received a number of messages Saturday evening saying the front of house staff—servers, bartenders and managers—walked out just as service was set to begin, leaving owner James Toland without staff to man the tables. One message said the restaurant was closing and would not re-open. Another mentioned the walk-out was due to the restaurant not having any wine or spirits to sell customers.

A number of staffers hit a nearby tavern to drink and told staff there that the restaurant "is done." When Eater tried to reach Toland to confirm what happened and to find out whether the restaurant would re-open on Tuesday (it is normally closed Sunday and Monday), Toland did not respond. Eater has heard that staff members are already asking others in the industry for work.

The Black Sheep, which opened just a little more than three months ago, has seemingly been plagued with bad luck. First, Michael Simon, who had been billed as a partner and general manager, left the restaurant after being told he was an "interim" GM. Then Time Out Chicago's Julia Kramer gave the restaurant a disappointing two-star review, after which someone posting comments as "Chef James Toland" railed against Kramer. Toland claimed he didn't leave the comments, but staff at the restaurant told Eater he bragged about doing it.

About a week later, the entire kitchen staff walked out after Toland fired chef de cuisine Phil Rubino and executive pastry chef Sarah Jordan to cut back on employment costs. Toland hired new cooks and got the restaurant back up and running with some menu changes, but it seems the luck has possibly run out on the Black Sheep. As more information becomes available, we'll update the story.
· Look Inside the Black Sheep, Opening This Weekend [~EChi~]
· All Black Sheep Coverage on Eater Chicago [~EChi~]

UPDATE: Toland email Eater to say the restaurant will be open again for business Wednesday night, with a bar "stocked with wine, beer and all of our remarkable small production spirits again."

The Black Sheep

1132 W Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60642

The Black Sheep

1132 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL