Big Star and Publican’s owners suspend takeout and delivery
One Off Hospitality Group, one of the city’s most popular restaurant companies (Big Star, Publican, Avec, Blackbird) stopped offering delivery and takeout over the weekend. Its announcement cited safety issues for its staff and customers. One Off was offering delivery at select restaurants and pickup at venues like Violet Hour where customers could take away cocktail kits. The news comes as restaurants owners around the country reconsider how it will operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Andy Ricker of Portland’s well known Thai spot Pok Pok may have been the most high-profile restaurateur to suspend operations. More on this story later. In the meantime, Fifty/50 Restaurant Group has picked up the slack when it comes to a partnership with One Off and D.C.-based celebrity chef Edward Lee that provided meals and groceries for restaurants and bar workers who have lost their jobs. Fifty/50 will replace One Off as Lee’s partner. From 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. every day, starting on Tuesday, Fifty/50’s West Town Bakery on Chicago Avenue will offer the free meals and groceries; Big Star Wicker Park was the previous pickup point. This is in addition to Fifty/50’s already announced free meals at its Division Street flagship.
State advises grocery stores to shun reusable bags
As restaurants lose business, grocery stores continue to pack customers. A few Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s locations had lines out the door over the weekend, as the stores imposed social distancing guidelines and limited the number of people inside the stores. Over the weekend, in another COVID-19-related precaution, Governor Pritzker announced there would be a temporary state ban on reusable bags, according to the Daily Line’s Heather Cherone. It looks like it’s not so much a ban, but a firm suggestion to ditch them for now, according to the Sun-Times. It appears the city will continue to collect the 7-cent tax that customers pay when they use plastic bags, according to Block Club Chicago. The city also announced stores much put up signs promoting social distancing, including the six-foot rule. Many restaurant customers have said they’d like to see that at restaurants, too. Regardless, this might be a good time to throw those reusable bags in the wash.
City hosts webinars for small businesses interested in loans
Starting Monday, the city of Chicago will offer webinars for those interested in applying for loans via the newly established Small Business Resiliency Fund. That’s the $100 million program that’s funded through grants that offers low-interest loans to businesses (like restaurants and bars) to help owners get through the COVID-19 crisis. There are several webinar times and dates available on the city’s website listed above.
Michelin-starred Schwa to start takeout
Yes, that reads correct: Schwa, the feisty Michelin-starred Wicker Park restaurant, is unfurling takeout options this week. Food will available on Thursday and Friday, according to Cameron Gokey, one of the chefs at the venerable restaurant along Ashland Avenue. Kimski is sending over some staples, like the Bridgeport restaurant’s Co-Op hot sauce and its kimchi-like sauerkraut, so Schwa’s staff can make po-boys. Three sandwiches (on bread baked on premises) will be available: fried shrimp, roasted-marinated squash, and boudin sausage stuffed with dirty rice. They’ll come with chips, and jambalaya will be available. Chef and owner Michael Carlson’s crew even has a new Instagram page where fans can follow for updates. Schwa may offer takeout on Saturday with another restaurant collaborator, but they’re still working on the details. There will be more on this later this week.
Entente, another Michelin-starred restaurant, to offer takeout and delivery
Here’s more Schwa-related news: Chef Brian Fisher, one of the restaurant’s successful alums, is starting takeout and delivery at his Michelin-starred restaurant, Entente. They’ll have options available on Thursday through Sunday via Tock. Selections include a weekend pastry package with Sparrow Coffee. There’s also family meals with pasta, chicken tikka masala, and Entente’s popular dry-aged duck. Entente also has some merchandise available on its website. Entente has earned Michelin-star status for the past three years, moving from Lakeview to River North in 2019.
West Loop food hall vendor announces takeout and delivery
Though Entente has a food hall stall at Time Out Chicago, it’s harder for vendors who rely on food halls as their primary space to continue business during the outbreak. Bumbo Roux, a food stall at Politan Row in West Loop, has found a way. The creole and Indonesian restaurant is using a Goose Island space for its kitchen and offering takeout and delivery. That’s the preferred node of business, but they’re also on Grubhub and Uber Eats. Those third parties take a percentage from each order.