An unprecedented coalition of Chicago restaurants are holding a fundraiser on Thursday, May 2 with sales benefitting a domestic violence victim advocacy group that is well aware of the effort. Participating venues include Bar Biscay, Funkenhausen, Longman & Eagle, Cherry Circle Room, and Emporium Arcade Bar. They’re donating money to Connections for Abused Women and Their Children (CAWC), a 41-year-old women’s shelter with presences in locations like Northwestern Memorial and Stroger hospitals.
Event organizers are looking for more restaurants to add to the 27 already participating, according to event founder Daniella Caruso, a co-owner at Funkenhausen in West Town and a former CAWC volunteer. She started contacting restaurants more than a month ago. Caruso wants to build an industry that better listens to tend with victims’s needs. There are misconceptions, including wondering why a victim can’t just easily exit an abusive relationship. Fiscal constraints and the fact there aren’t enough shelter beds available don’t make the solution so feasible.
“I want the community to be more understanding of the issue as a whole and how it develops,” Caruso said.
CAWC can do its part by providing tips on how to better recognize potential victims and perpetrators. For example, CAWC executive director Stephanie Love-Patterson suggested posting tips or pamphlets on the inside of bathroom stall doors. This way, victims can discretely take down phone numbers for counseling without the fear of being judged.
Restaurants and bars should be safe spaces for victims where they receive support. Many times when victims arrive at CAWC, the group’s staff are the first people to actually listen and believe victim stories, said Love-Patterson. She’s in awe of the effort. While a few restaurants have donated gift cards for silent charity auctions, the industry has never showed solidarity like this effort.
“This is groundbreaking and what I hope this will cause other industries to think about how they can help their workers,” Love-Patterson said.
Though Caruso and Love-Patterson said the restaurant world isn’t different from other sectors when it comes to domestic violence, access to benefits may be one area of concern in this discussion. Even though the number is increasing, few restaurants and bar workers have access to benefits like health care insurance which would also make counseling services available. Also, not all abuse is criminal. A report from the Restaurant Opportunities Center estimated 90 percent of female restaurant workers have experienced sexual harassment.
With that in mind, the response has been positive. Caruso is looking for more restaurants to join, particularly some of Chicago’s bigger restaurant companies. The majority of the 27 participants are independent restaurants.
The money would help CAWC offers a variety of support services for domestic violence victims across Chicago. The organization needs money for a variety of reasons. For example, $500 pays for clothes for seven CAWC so they have the appropriate attire for job interviews. $250 would pay for transportation so 10 clients could go to court to seek an order of protection. $1,000 covers the monthly phone bill for CAWC 24-hour domestic violence hotline which receives about 300 calls per month.
This is a learning process for the restaurant world. Sari Worsham is co-owner of Bar Biscay and MFK., two participating restaurants. Worsham and Love-Patterson spoke about ways owners could better support victims. One way is to better recognize signs. A victim may wear a long-sleeved sweater in the middle of summer to cover up injuries. A normally punctual worker may suddenly become tardy. Addressing suspicions requires a deft touch. Love-Patterson suggested managers to gently use language like “I might be wrong, but I wanted to check in on something.”
“I would love to be in a world where they felt safe and if it wasn’t us they could talk to someone else,” Worsham said.
Caruso, a former Eater Chicago intern, is married to Mark Steuer, the chef/co-owner at Funkenhausen, which has helped put her in contact with restaurant owners. There was talk about how to market the event, if customers would be triggered by displays announcing the event. If customers are bothered by the effort, Chicago has plenty of other restaurants they could visit.
“If anyone has any problem with what we’re doing...it’s true, zero parts of me cares,” Caruso said.
Restaurant owners interested in joining the effort could email Caruso at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These are the participating restaurants as of April 18:
- Bar Biscay
- El Che Steakhouse & Bar
- La Sirena Clandestina
- Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods
- The Loyalist
- Good Measure
- Filini Bar & Restaurant
- The Press Room
- Walton Street Kitchen + Bar
- Cherry Circle Room
- Longman & Eagle
- Spilt Milk
- Bayan Ko
- Broken Shaker Chicago
- Pub Royale
- Emporium Arcade Bar (Wicker Park, Logan Square, Fulton Market)
- Young American
- Ludlow Liquors