Chicago may finally see a long-discussed casino as Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday opened the bidding for a gaming resort development that must include restaurants, a 500-room hotel, meeting spaces, entertainment venues, and other ancillary facilities for shopping and recreation. The plan is to unveil the casino at yet-to-be determined location by 2025.
Interested companies may submit proposals by August 23, These must include a detailed descriptions of proposed restaurants including sizes, themes, and anticipated restaurateurs, plus notes on any Chicago connection to the establishment or operator. Whoever is selected will also have the option to run slot machines at O’Hare and Midway International Airports.
Restaurants are a major part of the casino experience, and city is asking for “restaurants and bars utilizing local talent, brands and entertainment venues creating an entertainment destination that will enhance the urban fabric of its surrounding neighborhood.” This language is meant to ward off national companies wanting to parachute into the city and seize an opportunity.
The city has lost billions of tourism and convention dollars due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In early March, a rep for the owner of McCormick Place said that that 214 events have been canceled at the convention center in South Loop, resulting in an estimated $2.9 billion in pandemic-related losses. Downtown restaurants and hotels have also suffered economic strife during the pandemic. The city needs to find new revenue streams to boost culinary tourism and casino development could help.
Lightfoot expects it will result in $200 million in revenue for the city annually. She also points to benefits like job creation and training programs, as well as opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses. A Chicago casino would have an effective tax rate of 72 percent, according to WTTW Chicago.
Under the plan, applicants will start publicly presenting their proposals by late September and the city will choose a finalist in early 2022. The selected project must also be approved by the Illinois Gaming Board. Additional details are available on the city’s website.
And in other news...
— As the seasons change in Chicago, so does how restaurants deal with the pandemic. Eater NY reports that New York restaurants are shedding takeout operations as COVID-19 vaccines are making indoor dining a safer option. But Alinea Group’s Nick Kokonas tweets some changes with new revenue streams are here to stay. The three-Michelin-starred restaurant has started selling pot pies that they ship nationally. Kokonas writes the company sells about $25,000 in pies per week. It’s hard to say goodbye to that.
— Asia on Argyle, the dining district that’s home to a cluster of Asian restaurants in the Uptown and Edgewater neighborhoods, will next month find itself operating alongside the CTA’s massive Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) Project. Officials on Tuesday announced that the project’s first phase — the demolition of Red Line tracks and structures at Argyle, Lawrence, Berwyn, and Brwyn Mawr — will begin in May and should finish in 2022. Urbanize Chicago has more details.
— Houndstooth Saloon in Lakeview has partnered with church-run meal program Dignity Diner to raise funds and supplies throughout the month of April to help feed unhoused, food-insecure, and elderly Chicagoans. From noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday, the bar will host a live auction and raffles with proceeds going to the meal program, and will accept food and other items for donation. Find a list of requested donations on the bar’s website.
— Chicago’s National Indo-American Museum will host a virtual cooking demonstration with chefs Roni Mazumdar and Chintan Pandya (Adda Indian Canteen) at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Viewers can expect to learn how to make Chacha’s lamb chops, kale pakoda, and raita. Tickets and more details are available online.
— As restaurant industry awards rejigger for relevancy during the pandemic, The World’s 50 Best earlier this week released its revamped honors. The first phase is called “50 Next,” a list of folks 35 and younger “shaping the future of gastronomy.” The only Chicago rep is bartender Ashtin Berry: “A hospitality activist making the industry a fair place to work having founded many [organizations] (Radical Xchange, Resistance Served, America’s Table) to support and [honor Black] hospitality workers.”
— There hasn’t been great news coming from the world of food journalism in Chicago with many high-profile departures, but here’s a positive: Chicago magazine is bringing back its weekly newsletter, Dish. It’s been on hiatus during the pandemic. Food writing veteran Anthony Todd announced on his Facebook page that the newsletter will return in June. Perhaps they’ll allow Todd to resume writing reviews, something he did while working for Chicagoist. It’s not like Chance the Rapper has brought back food criticism...yet.