As bars across Chicago sit empty and its owners beg congress to finally step up with federal funds, officials have shut down another crowded and unlicensed party in Wicker Park. The city says 142 people attended the party, the second police and other officials have broken up in two weeks in the neighborhood. Events continue to crop up despite a COVID-19 positivity rate just above 13 percent in the city.
Investigators from the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) announced that early Saturday morning they were called regarding a big gathering advertised as “Wicker Loft” early Saturday morning at 1257 N. Milwaukee Avenue, according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office. They arrived to discover a bouncer and a line of people. Social distancing and masks weren’t requisites.
On top of playing host to numerous pandemic safety violations, the building’s second floor had no smoke detectors and its rear exit was obstructed — significant code violations that lead inspectors to shut the space down. Officials are leveling multiple citations at party organizers for defying COVID-19 restrictions and issuing cease and desist orders for running an “illegal, unlicensed club.”
It’s the second event of its kind in as many weeks for the neighborhood: police broke up an illegal pandemic rager of around 300 people around the corner inside the former Bedford space in late November. The restaurant and club has been closed since 2017.
Bar and restaurant owners who have kept their businesses closed during the pandemic are furious at the private parties. The owners of Emporium Arcade Bar have a location on Milwaukee Avenue near the site of the party. They wrote on Tuesday via Facebook:
“Hey f*ckers... a bunch of small business (like us) have had to close all year and watch their life’s work disintegrate because you asshats couldn’t just keep it in your pants for a few months. Grow the f up and stay the f home. This will be over soon sheesh...oh yeah also a ton of people have died maybe you heard”
Chicago officials are citing businesses for coronavirus violations at a rapid pace — including Ald. (44th Ward) Tom Tunny’s Ann Sather. BACP’s weekend enforcement team issued citations to seven businesses from December 3 through 6. They include:
- Zapotlan Bar in Brighton Park
- Randy’s Lounge in Grand Crossing
- Volare in Streeterville
- Firewater Saloon in Edison Park
- Flava Luxx in East Garfield Park
In other news...
— Chef Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat) of Top Chef and Iron Chef fame this month will launch This Little Goat Kitchen, the headquarters for her line of sauces and spices, in West Loop, according to a rep. Izard hopes to also use the space to host private dinners and classes at some point in the future. This announcement comes on the heels of the launch of Izard’s playful new bakery, Sugargoat. Izard has even marked her territory with a giant billboard at the intersection of Halsted and Randolph atop the building that houses Au Cheval.
— Downtown steakhouse Lawry’s the Prime Rib has permanently laid off 68 workers in preparation for its closure at the end of 2020 after nearly half a century in business, according to Illinois’ monthly WARN reports, a monthly summary of potential mass layoffs issued by the state. Aster Hall, a food hall off the Mag Mile (and run by Hogsalt Hospitality — a company that received $7.2 million in Payroll Protection Plan loans) has temporarily laid off 33, the report states, and recently reopened steakhouse Ocean Prime has given supplemental notices to 54 employees.
— Both Chicago locations of Moe’s Cantina in Wrigleyville in River Northhave been turned into COVID-19 testing facilities, according to the Tribune. Owner and Illinois Restaurant Association vice chairman Sam Sanchez, who tested positive for the virus in November, has reportedly partnered with medical professionals to perform up to 200 tests per day in Wrigleyville and River North.
— Justin Smurawa of Full Circle Fungi and a group of mycelium enthusiasts are at work on a worker-owned mushroom-growing co-op that aims to replicate the evanescence nature of fungi, Mike Sula reports in the Reader.
— Open streets dining over the summer was a lifeline for many restaurants, but for other small business, the events were a wrecking ball, according to Block Club Chicago. A co-owner at Elements gift shop in River North told reporters that she’s going out of business due to problems with blocked parking, traffic, and signage, and piles of garbage. Ownership other neighborhood businesses like Addington Gallery, and Fabcakes cafe also reported issues with tents and outdoor dining.