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Chicago Music Venues Show Appreciation for Badly Needed COVID-19 Stimulus

Plus, more than half of Illinois restaurant and bar owners say they can’t cover full rent this month

An empty stage with a drum kit.
The new stimulus bill includes economic relief for indie music venues and other cultural institutions.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Chicago’s small music venues, stricken by the pandemic and social-distancing rules that make indoor concerts dangerous endeavors, may finally receive desperately needed economic aid in the new federal pandemic relief bill. The bill’s entertainment relief package directs an estimated $15 billion toward grant programs for live music venues, independent cinemas like the Music Box, and other cultural institutions including theaters, museums, and zoos.

Groups like the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) have advocated for these small businesses since March, pushing legislators to recognize the indispensable role that establishments like the Hideout Inn, Rosa’s Lounge, Reggie’s, and Tonic Room play in neighborhoods and communities. In September, the Chicago band Varaha released a tribute video to the city’s empty bars and venues, tugging on the heartstrings of fans and drawing attention to lobbying efforts like NIVA’s #SaveOurStages.

For the owners, staff, and artists who feared that the funds would never come, news of the package is especially sweet. Many took to social media to celebrate and thank those who helped pave the way.

Sleeping Village in Avondale offered “gratitude (and concert tickets for life!)” to Illinois officials including Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, and Rep. Brad Schneider on Twitter.

“Happy Holidays! Thanks to everyone who contacted their elected officials to make this happen,” Subterranean in Wicker Park wrote on Twitter.

“We just wanna give a HUGE thank you to all of you who wrote letters, shared posts, and fought for the #SaveOurStages Act! We got it passed!,” Reggie’s Rock Club in South Loop announced on Facebook.

“This is HUGE,” local concert production company Audiotree wrote on Twitter. “Save the venues or bust really.”

The new COVID-19 stimulus bill hasn’t come as good news to all in the service industry, however. Its new round of Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans for restaurant owners and $600 checks for workers have been met with disappointment in Chicago and across the country. Today at 12:30 p.m., the National Restaurant Association will hold an online webinar on how operators can best utilize the bill. More details and registration are available online.

In other news...

— More than half of Illinois bar and restaurant owners can’t afford a full rent payment this month, a survey from a Boston-based company found, according to Crain’s. Just 27 percent of the state’s operators reported an inability to pay full rent in September, but numbers climbed as temperatures have dropped: 46 percent couldn’t cover rent in October, and 54 percent said the same in November.

— A new French-Canadian restaurant is in the works in Lakeview: Dear Margaret, from chef Ryan Brosseau (Le Sud, Table, Donkey and Stick) and hospitality consultant Lacey Irby, aims to debut for carryout and curbside pickup in early 2021. Eventually, they hope to debut a 40-seat dining room but plan to hold off until the city fully reopens indoor dining. Stay tuned for more on this project.

— Lousiana-based fast-food chain Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers is moving into the former Rockit Burger Bar in Wrigleyville, according to signage at the Clark Street address. The appearance of a wildly popular out-of-state chain in the spot once operated by Billy Dec (Sunda, the Underground) has surprised in-the-know locals like @ChicagoBars, who noted that the location’s delivery operations may run into big problems with game day traffic.

— Longtime Italian beef destination Jay’s Beef will permanently close its Schiller Park location after 38 years. Supporters have organized a farewell event that starts at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at 9732 W. Irving Park Road.

— When vandals destroyed an elaborate Christmas display at the Irish Nobleman Bar in West Town, pulling down lights and slashing inflatable snowmen and Santas, neighbors stepped in with some seasonal goodwill and raised more than $4,000 on GoFundMe, according to Block Club Chicago.

Rockit Burger Bar

3700 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60613 (773) 645-4400 Visit Website

The Hideout

1354 West Wabansia Avenue, , IL 60642 (773) 227-4433 Visit Website

Sleeping Village

3734 West Belmont Avenue, , IL 60618 (773) 654-3971 Visit Website