When Halal Guys opened its first Chicago restaurant in 2015, it arrived with great ambition, to show the Midwest what made the New York street cart phenomena so popular. Now four years later, Halal Guys has closed all three of its Chicago locations. A Wicker Park location closed earlier this summer, and now locations in Gold Coast and the Loop are done, at least temporarily.
Franchise co-owner Steven Chong said he and his ownership group are entangled in a legal dispute with Halal Guys’s corporate office. The Gold Coast (49 W. Division Street) and Loop (172 N. Wabash Avenue) locations are “closed until further notice.” Chong said he couldn’t comment any further.
“We are in a direct legal dispute and disagreement with our corporate office so we are closed until further notice,” Chong’s statement read.
The Chicago expansion was the company’s first outside of New York. Armed with an influx of money, the company wanted to take the gyros and outrageously spicy red sauce national. It started with a Gold Coast location, just west of Rush and Division. The late-night hours aimed to serve nearby bar patrons. Locations in the Loop and Wicker Park followed, with another restaurant in suburban Skokie. The outlook was positive for the expansion.
But the Wicker Park location, which opened in April, struggled, trapped in a space that had seen its share of bad luck (it was home to FireFin Poke Co., the mini-chain that closed all of its stores in one day in 2017). It first closed earlier this year, only to reopen with abbreviated hours. Halal Guys then pulled the plug on the store two months ago and the signage was finally removed about a month ago. It was the first sign of trouble.
The Gold Coast spot seemed to be adjusting. The operators actually ran out of food the first few weeks. They responded by removing seating to make room for coolers for more food storage. Meanwhile, the franchise owners had opened a store in the Loop for downtown customers.
Block Club Chicago reported TeaNinja, a business that shared an address with the Halal Guys in the Loop, also closed. They were a subtenant of the space, Chong confirmed. The Skokie Halal Guys is operated by another franchisee group and is unaffected by the legal action. Block Club first reported the closures at the Loop and Gold Coast.
An email to Halal Guys corporate wasn’t returned. Stay tuned for updates.