A suburban Chicago bar and cafe owner decided to briefly close his two businesses to give his staff a break after weeks of struggling with difficult customers over masks, patio policies, and more.
Ryan Tracy, owner of Beer on the Wall and Off the Wall Cafe in Uptown Park Ridge, detailed some of the encounters in a late August Facebook post, writing that his employees needed a few mental health days after a particularly difficult week in which several patrons threatened staff over their efforts to enforce the city and state’s pandemic guidelines.
“In the last week we have had three complains that our COVID procedures are too strict, one complaint that we weren’t strict enough, our trivia host was physically threatened, and two additional threats were lobbed at our servers because we are trying to enforce a state and municipal-mandated policy regarding pets on our patio,” the post reads. “Frankly, we’ve had enough of it.”
Servers, bartenders, and other front-of-house hospitality workers across Chicago and the U.S. have reported similar experiences. On top of their usual duties, many have found themselves also tasked with enforcing mask rules when it comes to oblivious or even aggressive patrons. Customers at stylish West Coast restaurant Pacific Standard Time have gone so far as to grab or try to cough on workers, a former employee reported in August. Tracy told the Tribune on Friday that he’s just asking customers to be nice to each other and his workers during a time that’s stressful for everyone.
These interactions became enough of an issue that Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker signed a law last month that upgrades attacking servers from simple battery to aggravated battery — plus a $2,500 fine. Customers are also now required to wear a mask when speaking to servers, or whenever they’re not eating and drinking, but this measure also places the onus on servers to ask diners — often repeatedly — to mask up.
— Storied German restaurant and beer hall Chicago Brauhaus will come back in a new space next week, according to Block Club Chicago, three years after the iconic Lincoln Square restaurant closed in spring 2017 after more than half a century. The new Brauhaus should open September 17 on the second floor of the DANK Haus German American Cultural Center at 4740 N. Western Avenue. DANK Haus’ team has been working on the project since March, raising money and collaborating with the Brauhaus’ original owners Harry and Guenther Kempf. The new location will feature pieces from the original restaurant, including doors, chandeliers, and its well-known red bar.
— Northern suburban fans of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Chicago’s largest restaurant group, will be able to order delivery from some of the group’s most popular venues including Pizzeria Portofino, il Porcellino, and RPM Seafood for a limited time, according to a rep. “The Best of Lettuce Delivered” runs from Saturday, September 12 to Sunday, September 20, for customers in suburbs including Evanston, Wilmette, Highland Park, Glenview, and more. All orders must be placed by 4:30 p.m. the day before, and there’s a $75 minimum. Ordering options and more details are available on Tock.
— A window at forthcoming Humboldt Park brewery Orkenoy and coffee company Dayglow was tagged with the phrase “gentrification is racism,” according to a Facebook post on Saturday from brewery owner Jonny Ifergan. “While we completely agree with this statement, we are deeply saddened by the misinformation that has been circulated this past week about us and our intentions in our future space at the @kimballartschicago,” Ifergan writes, in an apparent reference to coverage of rising tensions between former tenants and new developers of the Kimball Arts Center, where the brewery and coffee shop will be located. Orkenoy will be the first beer-maker in the neighborhood.
— Some of Chicago’s Black bartenders are making the best of job losses during the pandemic through innovation, concocting drinks for those who don’t feel comfortable going to bars but are still hankering for a professionally-made cocktail, according to the Triibe. Nikia Griffith of Creative Clique Cocktails and Robyn Green of Mz. Robyn’s Mobile Bartending both lost more conventional bartending jobs during Illinois’ stay-at-home order that closed bars and restaurants in March. Now both women are making ends meet by servicing private events, making contactless deliveries, and giving customers a taste of normalcy despite extraordinary circumstances.