Summer in Chicago is a vital time for the city’s hospitality industry, but Illinois’s twice-extended shelter-in-place order has many concerned on how COVID-19 will impact the city’s robust festival season. The summer months bring in significant funds for local food and beverage establishments. Tuesday, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events officials announced that some of the city’s biggest summer festivals are canceled for 2020, adding to a growing list of canceled or postponed neighborhood celebrations including Andersonville’s Midsommarfest, Do Division Street Fest, and Chicago Brewing District’s Dancing in the Streets.
Some establishments are already pivoting away from the festival circuit: North Center’s modern Irish spot Mrs. Murphy & Sons is using social media to highlight its six-time Ribfest Champion ribs available the half or full slab, even though Ribfest Chicago is canceled.
All these cancellations have a significant effect on income for food and drink vendors. Chicago’s Dog House owner Aaron Wolfson, whose Lincoln Park business is booked at numerous festivals running from the end of May through August, said he’s concerned but is trying to remain optimistic. “We can clearly understand that the patrons come first when it comes to stuff like this,” he says. “That being said, it makes an impact, especially with our business — we’re very focused on the summer festival season in Chicago.”
Earlier this month, Gov. J.B. Pritzker advised summer festival organizers to cancel their events out of an abundance of caution. Still, the city hasn’t announced the fate of three-day food festival Taste of Chicago, currently scheduled to kick off July 8, or the upscale Chicago Gourmet, which is slated for late September. “I don’t know what to expect — it’s kind of up in the air,” Wolfson says. “We’re hoping that this can pass us and we can get somewhat of a summer here in Chicago. Festivals are a big part of the Chicago summer outdoor culture and everyone looks forward to these things, especially when you come out of a long winter.”
And in other news...
- Well-known Rogers Park restaurant owner and chef Saul Moreno of Restaurante Cuetzala Gro died of the novel coronavirus on April 15 at age 58, Block Club Chicago reported. At 13, Moreno moved from his hometown of Mexico City to Chicago, where he developed a passion for restaurants. According to his daughter, Moreno began feeling sick on March 23 and quickly declined to the point that he required hospitalization and a ventilator. Ultimately, he suffered complications and health care workers were unable to wean him off the ventilator. Supporters have raised more than $19,000 for Moreno’s family on GoFundMe.
- Immigrants and refugees often serve as the backbone of the hospitality industry in the U.S., but sweeping bar and restaurant closures over the pandemic have left many workers without employment or a safety net — as are American citizens who are married to them and file joint taxes. In response, Rafael Esparza, co-owner and chef of Finom Coffee in Irving Park, and pastry chef Zed Aer of Andersonville’s Passerotto, created pop-up bakery ZXFI to raise funds for nonprofit Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. The pair are currently selling $1 raffle tickets on Etsy, with a whopper of a grand prize (valued at $1,500) provided by Ravenswood tea purveyor Rare Tea Cellar, a frequent collaborator with Esparza. Wednesday is the last day to buy raffle tickets, and all proceeds will go to ICIRR.
View this post on Instagram
Well, folks, here it is. You can purchase raffle tickets on the ZXFI Etsy for $15. Link in bio. Please read item description before purchase. This purchase is for (1) Raffle Ticket. You can purchase an unlimited amount of tickets. Each ticket purchase will gain you (1) entry into the Rare Tea Cellar raffle. @rareteacellar Cellar has GENEROUSLY provided our campaign with this beautiful raffle prize. All proceeds will be donated to @icirr_il ‼️Prize winner will be drawn on April 23rd. Raffle Prize must be PICKED UP from Finom Coffee. We will contact you to schedule a time for pickup. No shipping.‼️. . The grand priz 1 bottle Truffe Amere Truffle Bitters 1 bottle Rare Tea Cellar Truffle Maple Syrup 1 8 Cup Drip Tower 6 bottles Southern Decadence Magnolia Shrubbery 2 bottles Autre Fois Virgin Olive Oil 2 bottles Blis Smoked Soy Sauce 5 Kilo Basket of Eschire Butter 2 - 4oz Smoked Whitefish Caviar 2 - 4oz Smoked Trout Roe 4 jars of Fig Flavor Pearls 3 - 4oz Litchi Noir 3 - 4oz Rose Noir 4 Red Teapots. . The total value of the grand prize is $1500!. So buy a ticket NOW!!
- Chicago-based chain Potbelly Sandwiches does not intend to return the $10 million loan it received from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), intended for small businesses, Crain’s reported. Other publicly traded companies, including Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Shake Shack, also received PPP loans. All three have been roundly criticized for accepting funds when small food and drink establishments across the country struggle to survive, and Shake Shack announced Monday that it would return the loan. On April 15, it was announced that the federal assistance fund ran out of money. At the end of 2019, Potbelly’s balance sheet showed $19 million in cash.
- A number of viral stories about the reemergence of animals in quarantined cities have turned out to be fabricated (no, dolphins aren’t swimming in Venetian canals), but some Chicago wildlife has actually seen a change of pace because of the pandemic. The city’s rats that usually rely on restaurant dumpsters and overstuffed outdoor garbage cans have become more bold, according to the Tribune. Rather than venturing out in the dark, Chicago’s rats are scavenging for sustenance during the day, moving closer to residential homes than usual, eating other animals’s refuse, and even cannibalizing their own young or deceased to stave off starvation.
- Chicago’s acclaimed Alinea Group has closed both its New York luxury cocktail bars, the Aviary (an East Coast outpost of the Chicago original) and the Office, according to Eater NY. The Columbus Circle bars were already scheduled to close April 15 in a move unrelated to the coronavirus, Alinea co-founder and restaurateur Nick Kokonas told reporters, but shelter-in-place orders expedited the closures.