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COVID-19 Grant Program Launched for Struggling Restaurant Workers

Plus, Carnitas Uruapan joins 300 Pilsen property owners in opposing neighborhood landmark status

A server in a yellow dress hands and black mask hands a beer to a seated customer.
Workers can apply for one-time grants from the statewide emergency fund.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

A statewide program sponsored by the Illinois Restaurant Association that will award $500 grants for restaurant workers affected by COVID-19 launched Monday. Online applications are open for the association’s Educational Foundation Restaurant Employee Relief Fund provides one-time grants to restaurant industry workers. The money is intended to help cover living expenses like rent, food, and utilities during the pandemic, according to a news release. Restaurant and bar workers have until now resorted to online campaigns to raise money. The fund provides another option.

The restaurant association will prioritize applicants who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, are a caregiver for an immediate family member who has been diagnosed with the virus, and workers who are quarantined with a doctor’s note. Those who have been out of work for three weeks or more without unemployment benefits will also be prioritized. Applications and more details are available online.

The grant comes as the federal government continues to snarl its stimulus bill that would provide relief to restaurants. The launch also coincides with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s declaration Monday morning that Chicago is in the midst of the second wave of the pandemic as case numbers increase and the virus continues to rapidly spread. Though health experts still consider indoor dining to be among the riskiest activities for spreading COVID-19, Lightfoot asserts that based on her data, restaurants are not responsible for the recent spike.

And in other news...

— Marcos Carbajal, the owner of 45-year-old Michoacan-style carnitas institution Carnitas Uruapan, is among more than 300 Pilsen business and property owners who oppose a proposed ordinance that would designate the neighborhood as a city historic landmark district, according to the Tribune. Opponents are concerned about increased expenses and red tape, saying the costs of building maintenance could ultimately force out longtime residents and owners. Carbajal points to the awning at his 18th Street restaurant as a case in point: landmarks commission officials told him that the black awning that bears the restaurant’s name and logo doesn’t meet their standards, he told reporters. Once a short process that cost $150, the renovation approval process has taken nearly a year and lead to incurred costs of more than $2,000.

The ordinance was originally proposed in May 2019, the Trib reports, and numerous extensions have followed, including city council approval in July an additional six months to allow planners to get reactions from residents. It must next pass through the zoning committee, but per landmark commission rules will go into effect in January if a vote isn’t held.

— Large white paper signs cover the windows in the Clark Street space that formerly housed acclaimed chef Jennifer Kim’s Korean-Italian restaurant Passerotto, announcing the pending opening of Land & Lake Andersonville in spring 2021. It appears that hospitality group LM Restaurant Group (Bistronomic), Passerotto’s primary investory, plans to open a second iteration of its Loop restaurant Land & Lake Kitchen (in the LondonHouse Chicago hotel). Reps have not yet returned a request for more information.

Exterior of a brick building with white paper over the windows that reads “Land and Lake Andersonville, Opening Spring 2021”
Land and Lake Andersonville is slated to open in spring 2021.
Naomi Waxman/Eater Chicago

— A suburban seafood spot is moving into the Lakeview space that previously housed Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market, according to neighborhood blog Southport Corridor News & Events. Signs for Wilmette restaurant Pescadero Seafood & Oyster Bar are visible in the window on Belmont and ownership announced plans for the new location on Facebook in late September. Ownership notes in the comments that they have not yet selected an opening date. Fahstrom’s never reopened after Illinois’ stay-at-home order was lifted, and owner Glenn Fahlstrom formally announced the closure in June.

— West Loop bar and restaurant Recess has brought on chef Amanda Downing Salas as executive chef, according to a news release. Salas was most recently executive chef at essential barbecue spot Smoke Daddy in Wrigleyville. Other credentials include her 12 years as executive chef and operating partner at Rockit Bar & Grill in Wrigleyville, and — her first gig out of culinary school — sous chef at Michael Jordan’s One Sixtyblue restaurant in West Loop. She’ll start introducing menu changes at Recess in the coming weeks.

— Two Springfield breweries have made recent appearances in dueling political ads, according to the State Journal-Register. Craft brewery and restaurant Engrained Brewery appeared this month in a campaign ad for Democrat incumbent Sen. Dick Durbin; the owner of sports-friendly Home Plate Bar & Grill was featured in an a TV spot from the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment, a group opposed to the proposed graduated income tax amendment currently on Illinois ballots.


5420 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL Visit Website


838 West Kinzie Street, , IL 60642 (312) 801-1181 Visit Website

Fahlstrom's Fresh Fish Market

1258 West Belmont Avenue, , IL 60657 (773) 281-6000 Visit Website

Carnitas Uruapan

1725 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608 (312) 226-2654 Visit Website