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Chicago's Food & Drink Industry Donated $350K to Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Lettuce Entertain You alone contributed $202,600 to Emanuel, meanwhile industry virtually ignored challengers.

Rahm Emanuel
Rahm Emanuel
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

It's Election Day in Chicago, and now that the city knows how influential restauranteurs are, it's time to look at where their campaign donations go.

Sifting through state records shows that since 2013, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has received nearly $350,000 in campaign donations from the food and drink industry. Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises led the way with $202,600 in contributions. That's the total after combining individual donations including $65,300 from founder Rich Melman, other members of the Melman family, LEYE staff, a LEYE company donation, plus donations from Lettuce's Big Bowl and Paris Club.

LEYE in 2013 did donate $1,000 to Ald. Bob Fioretti, one of the three challengers running against Emanuel. Polk Street Pub gave $3,000 to Fioretti, while Beer Bistro gave $2,000.

Jesus "Chuy" Garcia received only a $2,000 donation from Cocula Restaurant, which is $2,000 more than Willie Wilson received from the industry.

Other restaurants that donated to Emanuel included: Hugo's Frog Bar ($10,500), Shaw's Crab House ($10,000), Hubbard Inn ($10,000) and Furama Restaurant ($5,000). Maple & Ash isn't even open yet on the Gold Coast, but management donated $5,000.

Jimmy Liautud, commonly known as Jimmy John's, and his wife donated $5,300 a piece to the mayor, while Grant DePorter of Harry Caray's also chipped in with $5,300.

The largest donations came from beer, as Chicago's brewery business continues to explode with help from tax incentives. Lagunitas Brewing alone donated $25,000 to Emanuel, while MillerCoors and Associate Beer Distributors of Illinois (through a PAC) added $10,000 each.