Alinea, Chicago’s most high profile restaurant — the city’s only three-Michelin-starred spot — is temporarily closing after Monday’s service, following along with Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s order to close all restaurants and bars in the state. The governor’s order runs through March 30 as local officials search for ways to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The announcement covers all Alinea Group restaurants: Alinea, the fine-dining flagship in Lincoln Park from superstar chef Grant Achatz, as well as Alinea’s restaurants in Fulton Market (The Aviary, Next Restaurant, Roister). Alinea co-owner Nick Kokonas made the announcement Sunday afternoon and wrote “this is genuinely the saddest day for The Alinea Group, the hospitality industry, and our teams. And we’ve been through some shit before.”
This is genuinely the saddest day for The Alinea Group, the hospitality industry, and our teams. And we've been through some shit before.— nick kokonas (@nickkokonas) March 15, 2020
As of tomorrow, per mandate, all Alinea Group restaurants will be closed. All guests will be refunded -- please be patient.
Please be safe.
Earlier this weekend, Kokonas foreshadowed the restaurant’s closure in a breakdown of how the virus has affected business at the restaurant’s parent company, Alinea Group. Locally, some restaurants owners praised Kokonas for transparency, while others dealing with the crisis was it was unrealistic to follow the path of a fine dining restaurant that can charge $500 per head.
“If we decide it is prudent to close our restaurants, or are required to do so, we will essentially ‘mothball’ the businesses by furloughing 95% of employees while paying TAG’s share of their healthcare benefits which are critical during this pandemic,” Kokonas wrote.
As the coronavirus affects the restaurant industry, many owners have asked customers to purchase gift cards to help solve problems with cash flow due to the sagging business from the outbreak. Alinea uses Kokonas’s reservation portal, Tock, which in most cases requires customers to pay for their meals before dining. Chicago food writer Michael Gebert (Fooditor) asked Kokonas on Twitter if that practice was similar to buying a restaurant gift card. Kokonas replied there differences “because the table tonight is empty, not full. That simple. It’s identical to when a diner says — I want to late cancel, and just give me a [gift card] for the future. Utilization today is zero. Party eats up two tables essentially.”
That being said, Alinea is showing flexibility during the pandemic, allowing customers to cancel, reschedule, or ask for a refund without questions.