Spring isn’t the only thing in the air in Illinois, where state officials continue to rollback COVID-19 rules as vaccinations rollout. More and more restaurant and bar operators are announcing new projects with more confidence that the pandemic’s worst is behind America. Among those projects? The debut of Illinois’ first bar for on-site consumption of marijuana.
In Sesser — about 300 miles south of Chicago — owners are preparing to open the Luna Lounge in late April or early May. This is a BYO-style venue where customers are encouraged to buy cannabis from an off-site dispensary. It’s billed as a safe space where customers won’t have to worry about being kicked out of a bar for rolling up a joint. The space will stock papers and have smoking paraphernalia for rent.
Ownership says it’s the first of its kind in the state, and a way to make Sesser more of a tourist destination. The bar won’t serve booze due to state indoor smoking restrictions. Food trucks will be parked outside.
Last year, Alaska was the first state in the nation to allow on-site marijuana consumption. Local authorities in Sesser approved the Luna Lounge plan in March 2020. In January 2020, a Springfield site was the first to receive an on-site license in Illinois.
Downtown Chicago’s first marijuana dispensary opened in last year, and there doesn’t seem much public push currently to bring on-site consumption to the city. However, on-site consumption has the potential to unleash creative possibilities in Chicago’s restaurant industry. For example, underground cannabis dinners would have more of a chance to go mainstream if laws are loosened.
And in other news...
— Last week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said baseball fans could attend games in person, but the Cubs and White Sox have been unclear on the status of roaming food vendors. Now, WBEZ’s Michael Puente explores how the return of baseball fans will impact bars around Guaranteed Rate Field and Wrigley Field. Ald, (44th Ward) Tom Tunney — who owns Ann Sather — chatted with Puente about the impact, as his ward contains the home of the Cubs. Tunney estimated bar and restaurant business is down 30 percent to 40 percent around the ballpark.
— Roark Capital, the group that counts Arby’s, Culver’s, and Sonic in its holdings, is no longer involved with local shawarma chain Naf Naf Grill. Naf Naf, a quick-serve operation, has 35 locations, according to Restaurant Business Online.
— Closing out on a sad note, the owner of the Mutiny, the Logan Square dive bar that closed in 2018 has died. Ed Mroz is remembered as a man who supported local musicians. Block Club Chicago has more on Mroz’s life.