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LGBTQ Charity Rallies Customers to Support Restaurants With Thursday Event

Restaurants have been community pillars, now TPAN wants to give back to the industry

The exterior of a restaurant.
Octavio is one of the 63 restaurants participating in TPAN’s event.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

The hospitality industry has taken pride in helping Chicago’s community through the years, whether it’s a gift card donation for a charity raffle, opening up an event space for a fundraiser, or just providing customers with a space where they could be themselves and enjoy a meal. Now, one of those groups helped by restaurants wants to return the favor as the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the hospitality industry. Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN) has organized an event for Thursday to encourage customers to order food from restaurants that have supported the LGBTQ community.

Today, supporters can order meals from any of the 63 selected restaurants, and enter to win prizes. Participants include Yoshi’s Cafe, Vincent, El Nuevo Mexicano, Big Chicks, and Nookies Edgewater. Many of these restaurants are in Boystown, but also go as far south as Cherry Circle Room in South Loop. The event will hopefully generate business to these allies in the same way as campaigns like The Great American Takeout.

TPAN is a group founded in 1987, as HIV and AIDS tore through the LGBTQ communities. The organization was formed to address a void in health care, and one of its biggest events is Dining Out For Life, a fundraiser that was postponed due to the pandemic. The event, which raises about $4.3 million annually, relies heavily on restaurants which donate sales to the chairty. TPAN officials decided to flip the script and try to help restaurants by creating Thursday’s event. It’s a way to say thank you, says TPAN Director of Development Bryant Dunbar.

“They were there when we needed a space to have dinner, and — to be blunt — when we needed to mourn,” Dunbar says of restaurants. “The pandemic has revisited so many of the feelings we had during the HIV epidemic.”

Folks at a restaurant holding a TPAN pamphlet.
Customers dining during a past Dining Out For Life event.
TPAN/John Gress Photography

Dunbar has heard heartbreaking stories from restaurant owners, such as Maria Rodriguez of El Nuevo Mexicano in Lakeview. She tells him that her staff routinely saves money from their paychecks to send back to their families on other countries. In some ways, the pandemic has hit those immigrants harder than others. Event organizers are hopeful that the people who have asked restaurants for help in the past can support these small businesses in their times of need.

Big Chicks

5024 North Sheridan Road, , IL 60640 (773) 728-5511 Visit Website


1746 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60614 (312) 337-2454 Visit Website


1475 W Balmoral Avenue, Chicago, IL 60640 773 334 7168 Visit Website

Cherry Circle Room

12 South Michigan Avenue, , IL 60603 (312) 792-3515 Visit Website