Just as Chicago’s restaurant industry marks a year since COVID-19 has become a household term, two significant industry trade associations have again canceled annual trade shows at McCormick Place due to the pandemic safety concerns over travel and large gatherings.
Both the National Restaurant Association and the International Housewares Association have announced the cancelations of shows planned for May and August respectively, with plans to return in 2022. The news evokes a distinct deja vu — a stark reminder of the confusion seen last March when residents and business owners didn’t yet realize how the virus would come to define day-to-day life in Chicago and across the country.
The events were slated to draw a total of 126,000 people and foster an economic impact of $210 million, a rep for the owner of McCormick Place told the Tribune. She tells reporters that 214 events have been canceled at the convention center in South Loop, resulting in an estimated $2.9 billion in pandemic-related losses. The most recent cancelations spell further financial strife for tourism-related businesses, including restaurants, bars, and hotels.
Some frustrated Chicagoans took to social media to highlight the financial losses caused by the cancelations: prolific bar-industry Twitter account @chicagobars summed up many reactions, writing “F*CKING DAMN IT” in response to the news.
F*CKING DAMN IT. 2021 Restaurant show cancelled, not postponed until fall.— Chicago Bars (@chicagobars) March 2, 2021
"With 214 conventions canceled since March of 2020, the financial hit to Chicago is staggering: $2.9 billion." https://t.co/M86zRtthSd
Industry lobbyists also voiced ire on Twitter. Michael Jacobson, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, places blame for the cancelations on city and state officials — he’s doesn’t believe elected officials are pushing to open for events fast enough. Jacobson describes the losses as “another blow” to hotel and union trade workers:
And thousands of #hotel workers and union trade workers at McCormick Place get dealt another blow. All because the state and city refuse to put together a plan for a gradual reopening for meetings/events throughout 2021, as vaccinations increase and COVID numbers improve. #twill https://t.co/Kj61H1CIog— Michael Jacobson (@TravelJacobson) March 2, 2021
The International Housewares Association is planning its next Inspired Home Show for March 5 to 8, 2022; the National Restaurant Association has rescheduled its show for May 21 to 24, 2022. Meanwhile, the Restaurant Association has created a virtual “Show To Go” in the interim.
And in other news...
— In a true comeback story, Gyros Planet and Taqueria in suburban Evanston, initially slated to close in February, will remain open after supporters raised $30,000 in 24 hours, according to the Tribune. Columnist Heidi Stevens first drew attention to the planned closure in the Trib, prompting local activists to get involved and raise the funds necessary to keep the business viable.
— Chicago-based poet and musician Jamila Woods has teamed up with Goose Island on a limited-edition burger designed to raise funds for Brave Space Alliance, a Black- and trans-led LGBTQ center on the South Side. Woods’ special vegetarian burger features spicy black beans and quinoa with pickled shallots, sriracha Kewpie mayo, and pepper jack. The burger collaboration is slated to launch March 12 as a part of Do312’s annual 312 Day and accompanying livestream, according to a rep.
— Isfahan, a newish Armenian and Persian virtual restaurant from Chicago musician Liam Kazar, will pop up with a takeout-only a la carte menu this month at the Long Room in Lakeview. Diners can now place pre-orders online for the pop-up, which will run from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 12 to 13.
— As the Ace Hotel Chicago figures out the future of the restaurant space that formerly housed City Mouse, the Fulton Market coffeeshop (Lovage) has launched a bakery pop-up in honor of Women’s History Month with four of city’s top bakers who will sell a special treat. From Wednesday through March 9, Sandra Holl (Floriole) will sell her cranberry raspberry pop-tart. Then from March 10 through 16, Kyleen Atonson (Cafe Selmarie, Acadia, Honey’s) will take over. Next, from March 17 to 23, is Valeria Taylor (Loba Pastry + Coffee). The pop-up ends from March 24 to 31 with Laura Mitchell (Luxury Cake Company). The hotel’s Felicia Mayden assembled the lineup to raise money for She Should Run, a nonpartisan nonprofit that encourages women to run for political office.