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Courts Deal Blow to Restaurants Seeking Pandemic Insurance Relief

Plus, Southern Smoke wants to give relief to tornado victims

Billy Goat Tavern
The Billy Goat Tavern didn’t receive the legal news it wanted.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

A group of restaurants — including Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Billy Goat Tavern, Purple Pig, Fatpour Tap Works, Happy Camper, Headquarters Beercade, and Welcome Back Lounge — were dealt a legal blow last week. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled insurance companies were under no obligation to pay off losses suffered after the government shutdowns (which suspended indoor dining) in March 2020.

The court ruled that the pandemic did not cause “direct physical loss” to the plaintiffs, which was central to the plaintiffs’ arguments. While business interruption lawsuits continue in other courts, last week’s sweeping set of rulings could be seen as setting a legal precedent, thus spelling doom for restaurant owners seeking insurance relief. Restaurant owners argued that their insurance policies should have protected them from the pandemic shutdowns. As Crain’s points out, one company in particular — Society Insurance in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin — was perhaps more vulnerable to a legal challenge. Society, which was listed as a defendant in multiple lawsuits, did not explicitly spell out that a pandemic would be excluded for its coverage.

The ruling, decided on December 9, involved the Cincinnati Insurance Company as the defendant against a series of plaintiffs of which none were restaurants, including a hotel and dental practice.

A critic visits a hot dog stand

Tribune critic Louisa Chu assigns half a star to the Wiener’s Circle, Chicago’s infamous late-night hot dog stand that reopened in late October after a substantial remodel, which included the addition of a bar and patio seating. Though Chu raves about the stand’s “undeniably delicious” signature Chicago-style char dogs and seems to have enjoyed her “nuanced, balanced” Basic Bitch frosé, she feels the scene — and safety measures — lead much to be desired: on one visit, she reports the indoor dining area was “packed with about 40 rowdy customers, all maskless except for one other person, as were the employees behind the counter.”

A non-profit taco truck loses vehicle to a fire

Taco Sublime, a taco truck from local non-profit Under The Bridge Project, on Saturday lost its truck to a fire, operators announced on Instagram. No one was injured and firefighters extinguished the blaze, though the fire’s cause is not yet known. Despite the destruction, ownership is taking the incident in stride, holding a fundraiser to rebuild from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at Monday Coffee inside Retreat at Currency Exchange in Washington Park, 305 E. Garfield Boulevard. “Yesterday was what for many could of been the end of the dream,” they write. “Not for us. It was the spark of flame we needed to recalibrate and adjust the direction we are taking with our business and non profit.”

TBOX holiday bar crawl returns with some revelers flouting mask rules

TBOX, or the Twelve Bars of Christmas bar crawl, returned to Wrigleyville over the weekend for the first time since 2019, much to the delight — or chagrin — of neighborhood residents and city health officials. Founder Chris Festa optimistically told Eater in November that attendees would “gladly follow rules,” but the reality turns out to be more complicated. Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs last week reportedly said they planned to enforce the city’s mask mandate by sending teams to participating bars, but on Monday morning, Axios Chicago’s Monica Eng writes, “We checked in at half a dozen bars and didn’t spot a single indoor patron following the mandate.”

Applications sought for tornado relief

As Illinoisans sort out the damages suffered over the weekend of tornadoes tore through the southern part of the state — six were killed after a roof collapsed at an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville — groups are ready to help restaurant and bar workers. Southern Smoke Foundation is encouraging workers in Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas. Missouri, and Tennessee to apply for relief on its website, promising its application process is quick and confidential.

Roscoe Village diners robbed

A trio of alleged robbers last week targeted diners at French Mediterranean restaurant Le Sud in Roscoe Village, approaching two separate patrons and taking property off their respective tables before fleeing, according to ABC 7 Chicago. Police told reporters that the suspects were not found in a search of the area after the Wednesday night incident, and no one is as yet in custody.

Fatpour Tap Works

2005 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622 (773) 698-8940 Visit Website

Headquarters Beercade

950 W Wolfram St, Chicago, IL 60657 773-665-5660

Le Sud

2301 West Roscoe Street, , IL 60618 (773) 857-1985 Visit Website

The Wiener's Circle

2622 North Clark Street, , IL 60614 (773) 477-7444 Visit Website

Billy Goat Tavern

1535 West Madison Street, , IL 60607 (312) 733-9132 Visit Website

Lettuce Entertain You

5419 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60640

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