Chicago restaurant workers, unless they have underlying conditions, aren’t eligible for COVID-19 vaccines until March 29, when the city is projected to advance to Phase 1C of its inoculation program. However, a group of Black and Latinx restaurant, housekeeping, and other hotel workers received vaccines on March 10 at Trump Tower Chicago. That news — revealed Tuesday via a Block Club Chicago report — ignited discussions on whether the building’s management used clout to skip the line for vaccinations.
This is further complicated by Block Club’s follow-ups to its initial story with word that Loretto’s chief operating officer, Dr. Anosh Ahmed, owns a condo inside Trump Tower. The physician-adminstrator also posed for a photo with Eric Trump, a son of the former president. Ahmed, according to Block Club, told friends after sharing the photo that he “vaccinated Eric Trump.” Ahmed tells Block Club he was joking and that Eric Trump has an “anti-vaccine stance.” In a previous text obtained by Block Club, Ahmed wrote that Trump is a “cool guy.”
The vaccines came from Loretto Hospital, a safety-net facility in Austin, one of the 15 neighborhoods included in the city’s Protect Chicago Plus program set up by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office to distribute vaccinations for areas with the highest rates of COVID-19. Trump Tower is in River North, a neighborhood near downtown that’s home to pricey restaurants and real estate. It’s not part of Protect Chicago Plus, which raised questions about what Loretto’s staff was doing there. The city, for its own part, says it was not aware of the March 10 vaccination event at the tower and that it had nothing do with Protect Chicago Plus.
Hospital staff explained in a memo obtained by the Tribune that they made a special trip to River North at the request of their patients who work at Trump Tower. These workers live on the West Side and couldn’t leave work and make it to the hospital in time for their vaccinations.
In the memo, attributed to hospital president George Miller and sent out Tuesday after the Block Club story, Miller writers staff would “vaccinate 72 predominantly Black and brown restaurant, housekeeping, and other hotel support personnel at Trump International Chicago.” Miller writes the hospital mistakenly believed restaurant and other hospitality workers were eligible for vaccines under the city’s current phase of the rollout.
Trump Tower houses Terrace on 16 (the space once housed Michelin-starred Sixteen) and a lounge called Rebar. The restaurant has reopened for indoor dining, while Rebar has remained closed for much of the pandemic. The Illinois Restaurant Association has unsuccessfully lobbied to move up the restaurant worker eligibility for vaccinations. The city is due to release details about the next phase soon.
Though Chicago is a Democratic stronghold — one that hasn’t taken too kind to the former president — there are questions about clout. Did the Trump Organization — which manages the building — use connections to somehow circumvent the eligibility process? Trump allies have a history of this in Chicago where they covertly pursued a permit for the large “Trump” sign on the building, a sign that many Chicagoans say scars its skyline. The Trump Organization has offered no public comment on the vaccination matter.
This isn’t the first time Eric Trump, executive vice president of the organization, has made restaurant-related news in Chicago. In 2019, a story broke that a server at the Aviary — the elite cocktail bar in Fulton Market run by the Alinea Group — spat on him. The server’s identity was never made public.