Chicago has passed a law preventing restaurants from automatically handing out single-use items like cutlery and chopsticks in a tentative step toward addressing the environmental impact of plastic pollution. Restaurants won’t face fines as environmentalists are seething that the restrictions aren’t tough enough.
The measure, introduced in late June by Ald. (39th Ward) Samantha Nugent and Health and Environmental Protection Committee Chairman Ald. (12th Ward) George Cardenas, requires the city’s restaurants and bars to supply single-use utensils only when takeout and delivery customers specifically ask for them. Nugent says waste is at an “all-time high,” as restaurants have been relying more on takeout during the pandemic.
Officials have voiced concern about burdening already-struggling Chicago restaurants. Nugent told reporters that she worked with the Illinois Restaurant Association to promote environmental responsibility without penalizing beleaguered operators. Utensils that are both disposable and eco-friendly can come at a high cost, and instituting a mandate could force some chefs to choose between needed ingredients and approved dish ware. The restaurant association did not support the measure, citing the tough times restaurants are experiencing during the pandemic.
Environmental groups say the City Council’s actions don’t go far enough, according to the Sun-Times. Compliance is voluntary, and drive-thru spots and airport restaurants are exempt as their patrons don’t typically have access to their own utensils. The ordinance also doesn’t cover plastic straws, beverage lids, or drink sleeves. Omitting straws feels antiquated as there’s been a large movement to reduce their usage. Chicago’s largest restaurant group, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, in 2018 switched over from plastic to biodegradable straws, joining in the Shedd Aquarium’s #SheddTheStraw campaign.
A few council members say the ordinance needs work. Among the “no” votes was Ald. (32nd) Scott Waguespack, who in January 2020 introduced a more aggressive ordinance that would have banned styrofoam containers at restaurants and require re-usable plates and bowls. Waguespack had previously expressed support for the measure despite its incremental approach.
And in other news...
— Iron Chef Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat, Cabra) has listed her Tri-Taylor home for $1.35 million, according to Crain’s. But fret not, Chicagoans: the accomplished chef and entrepreneur isn’t leaving town. A rep reminds her legion of fans that she’s been splitting time between Chicago and LA, as she and Boka Restaurant Group opened a second location of Girl & the Goat in California. Izard will eventually look for a new Chicago home, the rep adds. If folks want a peek at Izard’s home, including her custom outdoor kitchen on the patio, check out the listing.
— Restaurants and workers are adjusting to having fewer employees on deck in many ways. At Bridgeport’s smash hit Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream, it means only offering chef Won Kim’s crispy fried chicken from Friday through Sunday. PFIC, which neighbors Maria’s Community Bar, had to find ways to roll back services and landed on limiting its fried chicken. But that doesn’t mean all fried items are limited: PFIC’s chicken-fried mushrooms, a delight for vegetarians, are still available every day.
— The owner of Town Hall Pub in Lakeview died on September 6, and the bar has remained closed since then. Block Club Chicago confirmed the death of Bill Bucholtz. The bar’s future is in question after 30 years of operation. According to Bucholtz’s obituary, he died of complications from COVID-19 — it was a breakthrough case, as he was fully vaccinated. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reiterate, breakthroughs were always expected, and that no vaccine is 100 percent effective. Still, that’s no excuse to reject the vaccine as it dampens severe novel coronavirus symptoms and protects the vulnerable — including children who aren’t old enough for the shots.