It took longer than the West Loop wanted, but late Thursday the city announced that Randolph Street would join other roadways across the city in the Make Way program. The city has already erected barricades blocking Randolph’s service streets to allow restaurants to set up tables and chairs for customers. While indoor dining returns Friday to Chicago (the city will allow restaurants to reopen dining rooms at 25-percent of normal capacity), street side dining allows restaurants to serve even more customers. Health experts also feel the novel coronavirus is less likely to spread outdoors.
Randolph Restaurant Row is one of the city’s most popular dining destinations featuring restaurants like Au Cheval, Bad Hunter, Bandit, Girl & the Goat, Haymarket Tavern, La Josie, Leña Brava, and Rooh. Its layout is also unique with service streets that can still allow motor vehicle traffic through the main road. Randolph’s service streets will be closed from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday throughout the summer.
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Randolph Street is joining @chicagosmayor’s Outdoor Dining Pilot! Friday-Sunday, starting TOMORROW, some restaurants on Randolph Street will have expanded sidewalk cafes. All patrons are asked to observe health guidelines whenever possible. All restaurant staff will wear required PPE. We hope everyone stays safe and enjoys #Chicago summer on #WestLoop’s famous Restaurant Row, sponsored by @sgwinespirits!
Restaurant owners and groups like the West Loop Community Organization and the West Central Association have been waiting for weeks for a green light from the city. Randolph Street was on the city’s original list of six streets for the pilot program. Lakeview was the first to launched its program, and earlier this week, the city announced Andersonville, Chinatown, Edison Park, Grand Crossing, and Little Italy will close streets this weekend.
Little Village was on the original list, but — as Block Club Chicago reports — plans were scrapped for a variety of reasons. There were worries that traffic would be gummed up for delivery drivers. It was deemed that sidewalk patios would help restaurants more.
The level of communication between restaurant owners, neighborhood chambers, and the city has been criticized. In Lakeview, restaurant owners were given little notice to purchase patio furniture, ensure they have proper staffing, and to pay the $150 permit fee. Part of the reason for those delays is the unrest after the George Floyd protests and subsequent riots.
In West Loop, restaurant owners were notified late Thursday afternoon; they’d been waiting for word for weeks. Manish Mallick, owner of Rooh, grew frustrated with the city’s delays. As Rooh’s business suffered through the pandemic, he didn’t want to rely on the street program to save his restaurant. He began plans to open a new patio using the parking space next to the restaurant. That would give him more capacity as a sidewalk patio would only seat eight. That liquor license was finally approved Thursday. Though his modern Indian restaurant has been well received, he says he needs to start welcoming back dine-in customers to survive or his restaurant could close in the next few months. Rooh is planning to reopen its dining rooms Tuesday.
In Lakeview, the brunch and lunch crowds in the afternoon were relatively tame. Not everyone walking down the middle of the street were wearing masks, but at least social distancing was being observed. However, the evenings felt more like a street festival atmosphere with pedestrians smuggling in alcohol and roaming about in clusters. Most restaurants took reservations, as walk-ins faced waits as long as three hours. Lakeview East chamber officials put up new signs last week warning visitors that they shouldn’t be importing their own booze on Broadway Street.
There’s mixed confidence in dining out from bother diners and workers. On Thursday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 894 new novel coronavirus cases with 41 more deaths.
In other news...
— Wicker Park Spanish spot Black Bull closed last month and now a new restaurant and general store, from the same ownership, is ready to open in its place. Bonhomme Hospitality (Beatnik) debuts Mama Delia on Friday. Bordel, the second-floor bar, will remain the same. Black Bull focused on tapas, but now owners feel they could unleash a wider variety of Spanish food on Chicagoans. A news release describes it as part restaurant, sherry bar, and neighborhood gourmet market carrying conservas and more. Check out more coverage next week.
— The owners of the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge got away with just a warning earlier this month when the famous blues and jazz bar hosted a curbside concert in front of their Uptown venue on Broadway. Block Club Chicago reports owners have given more thought to reopening and will do so Friday with live music. Music will be limited to percussion instruments like piano, drums, and guitars. There’s worry that wind instruments may pose a health risk. The restriction seemingly covers all wind instruments, not just horns — so don’t expect a Ron Burgundy jazz flute performance. The Green Mill plans on offering live music daily.
— Green City Market has already made changes to how customers shop its farmers markets in Lincoln Park and across the city. Officials have now announced how it will host its 2020 Green City Chef BBQ — an annual event that raises money for the organization. They’ll stream a free event on July 16. On top of that, they’ll also host a $125 cooking class featuring chefs like Beverly Kim (Parachute, Wherewithall), Seth Bradley and Ryan Van Voorhis (Nude Dude Food), Cedric Harden (River Roast), and Paul Virant (Vie, Gaijin). Called “Bites and Beverages,” participants will have to pick up an ingredient box which contains appetizer ingredients for two and a special gift. Green City’s website offers more details.
— Daisies, the Logan Square restaurant that takes a Midwestern approach to pasta, is teaming up with Pilot Project Brewing. Pilot Project is the Logan Square taproom that features drinks from several different breweries. The two are creating “Brewer’s Kitchen.” It’s a hard kombucha inspired by vermouth and made with orange wine, white tea, plus strawberry, rhubarb, honey, and botanicals. It will launch later this month and be available at the restaurant or taproom in cans or bottles, according to a news release.