Chicago will spend its weekend under the same 9 p.m. curfew that went into effect earlier this week with the city worried about public safety after demonstrations that protested racist police brutality turned violent. The uneasiness comes as many restaurants are reopening for the first time since COVID-19 took hold. Wednesday was the first day back for on-premise dining in Chicago.
The curfew is 8 p.m. Friday for the restaurants in the city’s Central Business District.
On Wednesday, Randolph Street — Chicago’s renown dining strip in the West Loop — stood dormant as no patios were open. The street was supposed to be cordoned off to vehicles for outdoor dining, but the city has quietly pushed that program back to later in June. But on Friday, Randolph Restaurant Row had some of the same energy neighborhoods like River North and Gold Coast had on Wednesday. Over at Federales, a popular taco bar, staff took customers’ temperatures to reduce the threat of COVID-19. Later on Friday night, a protest is scheduled to go down Restaurant Row while passing restaurants like Rick Bayless’s Cruz Blanca.
Away from the West Loop, Brian Jupiter, one of the city’s most high-profile African-American chefs, prepared for his own reopening. He waited until Friday to open Frontier, his West Town restaurant with a 90-person beer garden. Jupiter is also teaming up with Maya-Camille Broussard of Justice of the Pies. Frontier will sell pies at the restaurant. It’s a way Black-owned businesses can collaborate.
Jupiter’s restaurant has a banner hanging from a front fence reading “Black Owned We Stand With You.” Many shops along Milwaukee Avenue had windows shattered Sunday night in the aftermath of a peaceful protest in Wicker Park. Jupiter says Frontier was left untouched as looters raided drugstores and other businesses. He and his partners have a second restaurant, Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods, a short walk away in Wicker Park. Jupiter says he stood watch Sunday night when would-be looters approached in a car. He had a brief conversation and they departed leaving the restaurant unharmed.
The protests also affected white restaurant owners. Willie Wagner, chef and owner at Honky Tonk Barbecue in Pilsen, he paused his carryout operations this week and reopened Friday, He says he did it out of respect to George Floyd’s funeral, which took place Tuesday. R.J. Melman, president of Chicago’s largest hospitality company, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, says “there are much bigger social issues going on around the country” than opening a patio. LEYE opened its Fulton Market restaurant, Aba, on Friday for outdoor dining. Dusek’s in Pilsen, part of the 16” on Center brand of restaurants, will remain closed the entire week.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe set up to raise money for Black-owned restaurants damaged by vandals set up by Jeremy Joyce at Black People Eats has already surpassed its $20,000 goal. They’ve raised more than $57,000. Joyce says he hopes to distribute the money on Juneteenth, which is June 19. Meanwhile, the Tribune has a nice round up of resources of how Chicagoans can support Black restaurants.