On Monday, Chicago’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Alinea, began requiring adult customers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The policy extends to Alinea’s three siblings — Roister, Next, and the Aviary — which join a growing number of restaurants and bars requiring vaccines.
Additionally, Alinea will admit customers who have tested positive two weeks after they either test negative or last displayed COVID-19 symptoms. The restaurant will reschedule or adjust dining plans in the event of a positive COVID-19 test.
“This was the logical next step in the continuous effort to make our staff and guests safe as we hopefully move to the next, final steps of the pandemic,” Kokonas emails. He adds that Alinea had been planning the policy for a while.
Kokonas adds that he’s very encouraged by new antiviral drugs which present another treatment option in addition to the vaccines.
Enforcing this policy is easier at Alinea than at other venues as the restaurant is reservation only and not high volume. A fine dining restaurant can more easily control the customer flow.
It’s much more challenging at a larger venue, such as a music hall. Over at Radius in Pilsen, most concertgoers weren’t wearing masks over the weekend, as bartenders poured beers. Additionally, venue staff weren’t checking everyone’s vaccine status, a practice concertgoers have experienced throughout the year. The venue prominently displays on its website that vaccines or a negative test taken within 72 hours of an event are requisite for admission.
Vaccine requirements have made restaurants and bar owners targets of online harassment, with some negative comments coming from people living far outside of Chicago with no intention of visiting.
As Thanksgiving approaches, health experts have green-lit larger gatherings for those who have been vaccinated, a change from last year when COVID-19 cases were spiking and Chicago halted indoor dining. Still, there’s cause for worry: nearby Michigan is seeing another jump in cases — the most in the country. To combat this surge, just like in Illinois, Michigan health officials are urging its population to get vaccinated, especially younger residents who are at risk of being hospitalized in the ICU if they don’t get their shots.
Four injured in shooting Wednesday morning outside West Loop restaurant
Four people were hurt in an apparent drive-by shooting in the wee hours of Wednesday morning as they stood outside Alhambra Palace Restaurant, a 14-year-old Middle Eastern and African spot on West Loop’s Randolph Restaurant Row, according to ABC Chicago. The group of three men and one woman were transported to various area hospitals, with three in fair condition and one, a 30-year-old man, in serious condition after being shot in the thigh. No one is as yet in custody, and police have not indicated what may have prompted the shooting.
Chicago mayor taps new acting commissioner for food and culture events
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has appointed a replacement for Mark Kelly, the city’s commissioner for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), who retired in late October. Erin Harkey, who has worked for the city for five years, has taken over as acting commissioner for the department that handles events like Taste of Chicago in addition to her position as the mayor’s senior policy advisor for arts in culture. Kelly’s plans to retire were first made public in July.
Bridgeport Bakery owner hopes to reopen once again
Bridgeport Bakery is back from the dead yet again. Owner Can Lao has reopened after announcing last month that he was closing the bakery for good, and he has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover legal fees from his ongoing lawsuit the Bakery and Confectionery Union and Industry International Pension Fund filed against the bakery’s previous owner, Ron Pavelka. He’s asking for $289,000. On the GoFundMe page, Lao clarifies that under his ownership, Bridgeport Bakery has never been a union shop, and none of his employees are part of the union. Although Lao says he received no government assistance during the pandemic, records show that Bridgeport Bakery received $10,100 in PPP loans. Lao purchased the 50-year-old bakery in January 2020, two months after Pavelka closed it.
Help local chefs feed food-insecure Chicagoans
Chef Bill Kim of Urbanbelly, parent company Cornerstone Restaurant Group, Inspiration Kitchens in East Garfield Park, and 46 other local chefs are hosting the sixth annual Chefsgiving this weekend. The chefs will prepare more than 700 meals that will be distributed by 10 shelters around Chicago, which occupies unceded traditional homelands of the Kiikaapoi, Peoria, Kaskaskia, Bodéwadmiakiwen (Potawatomi), and Myaamia tribes. Mariano’s will be donating 325 pies, and Crate & Barrel will be helping with deliveries. Chefsgiving is also taking donations through its website.
Meanwhile, Vanille Patisserie, a French bakery in Lincoln Park, is partnering with Fight2Feed, a local nonprofit, to feed food-insecure families this Thanksgiving. For every pie that’s purchased, Vanille will donate one to complete dinners assembled by Fight2Feed. Vanille is offering five different pies this year, including pumpkin, pecan, and Nutella French silk, all in gluten-free variations. Order in the store or online.