Federal regulators paused the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine rollout Tuesday and launched an investigation into a blood-clotting complication with six reported cases in the U.S. out of 7 million doses. The move has impacted thousands of people scheduled to receive the shot this week, including members of Chicago’s restaurant industry.
Chicago hospitality workers became eligible to receive their long-awaited vaccinations on March 29. Over the past few weeks, groups like the Illinois Restaurant Association have collaborated with clinics like the Alivio Medical Center to hold industry vaccination events where workers could register for a one-dose Johnson & Johnson inoculation.
The rollout pause has now added a new complication for hospitality employees, who have long been known to face some of the highest risks of infection. Via Instagram, reps announced the postponement of a vaccination event planned for Tuesday stressing that “adverse side effects of this vaccine appear to be extremely rare” and a pledge to “continue to take all precautions to ensure the safety of our community/”
State officials and industry members are already racing to find workarounds. Bar industry advocate @ChicagoBars suggested that workers look into site in Gary, Indiana that uses Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine. Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced on Twitter that the state will allocate 50,000 first doses of Pfizer and Moderna shots to Chicago over the next week, and promised to follow up with an equal number of second doses to complete the vaccine protocol.
The aftershocks of the pause remains to be felt. Chicago restaurant owners have complained about a worker shortage, and some of that is due to workers waiting for vaccines. This has the potential for delaying new restaurant openings and adding yet another challenge for operators who have gone through so much since March 2020.
And in other news...
— FoxFire restaurant, a steakhouse in Geneva that last October filed a lawsuit to halt Pritzker’s ban on indoor service at bars and restaurants, will be allowed to move forward with legal proceedings, according to the Daily Herald. A Sangamon County judge ruled against the state’s attempt to have the case dismissed, but did not make a decision on the merits of the argument. The next hearing is slated for April 28.
— Meatheads Burgers & Fries, the Chicago-based fast-casual chain founded by a former Potbelly executive, last week filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Court documents show that the company owes more than $1.7 million — a figure that includes $982,000 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. Crain’s has more details.
— The Tribune reported last week that fast-casual Mediterranean chain Roti would close six of its Illinois locations amidst a larger downsizing. On Monday, Roti vice president Nico Nieto told Crain’s that’s not the case — he says the company is trying to reopen as many locations as possible. It remains unclear what that will mean for the brand’s Chicago-area restaurants. Landlords in Illinois, Minnesota, New York, and Texas have filed lawsuits this year against Roti.
— Deadline Hollywood has reported that movie theater chain ArcLight will not reopen its locations. The chain has kept its doors closed since March 2020, and that includes the ArcLight at the NEWCITY center near Lincoln Park. Deadline notes that this could be a negotiation ploy with landlords — a detail local media reports didn’t stress. Nevertheless, but the impact will be felt by restaurants inside the center including Nando’s, Kizuki, and Earl’s. Additionally, West Town Mexican favorite Tecalitlan recently announced it was moving into the space.