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United Center Workers Allege Labor Violations at the Home of the Bulls and Blackhawks

Plus, First Bites returns, a Jamaican pop-up, and how Andersonville doesn’t want to live más

The exterior of the United Center area.
Workers wants better conditions at the United Center.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

A group of food service and sanitation workers at Chicago’s United Center on Tuesday filed 24 labor complaints against their employer, Levy Restaurants, alleging that the company over-scheduled employees in violation of Illinois labor law. A dozen employees and members of Unite Here Local 1 also gathered on Tuesday to picket outside the United Center, according to the Sun-Times.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker in May signed the One Day Rest in Seven Act, which requires that workers are allowed one 24-hour period off per week, but the United Center employees claim that Levy has scheduled workers for as many as 35 days straight. They contend that in addition to over-scheduling and sudden changes in hours, the company has also failed to make legally required postings to alert workers of their rights and put pressure on those who raised concerns about their working conditions. In a statement to the Sun-Times, the company says it takes its employees’ allegations seriously and will investigate their claims.

A prominent brand in Chicago’s hospitality industry, Levy Restaurants is the food-service provider for venues including Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field, and the United Center. It was originally founded in 1978 with D.B. Kaplan’s Delicatessen at Water Tower Place, and also owned Spiaggia, the acclaimed downtown Italian restaurant with chef Tony Mantuano. In October, Levy acquired a minority stake in James Beard Award-winning Boka Restaurant Group, known for Chicago restaurants such as Girl & the Goat and Momotaro.

Jamaican pop-up Be Irie is coming to Avondale

Chef Tameisha Brown of Honey Butter Fried Chicken will on Monday, December 12 bring Jamaican cuisine to the Avondale restaurant with a pop-up from her brand, Be Irie, which she translates as “be alright, feel good.” Brown will offer favorites such as curry goat, jerk barbecue wings, rummy bundt cake, and more. Honey Butter’s pop-ups have a way of selling out quickly, so patrons are advised to show up early.

City Dings Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream

The city has shut down Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream and slapped a “license suspended” sticker outside the Bridgeport restaurant. That prompted fans into thinking PFIC would close early — ownership announced they were permanently closing on December 30. The restaurant posted it was a kitchen issue. They plan to reopen next week.

First Bites Bash Returns

For the first time since the pandemic, the city’s tourism office will host First Bites Bash, the kickoff party for Chicago Restaurant Week. Luella’s Southern Kitchen’s Darnell Reed will host the event, Thursday, January at the Field Museum. 2023 will bring Chicago’s 16th annual Restaurant Week with specials going from January 20 to February 5. For a listing of restaurants, check out Choose Chicago’s website.

Taco Bell angers Andersonville

Residents in Andersonville, a notoriously difficult area for restaurants, are angry that a Taco Bell is taking over Andersonville Antiques. Block Club Chicago has the story about a petition with more than 1,000 signatures opposing the Bell. There’s a bit of irony here, as Andersonville is also the neighborhood that complained about Mexican restaurant Cantina 1910, which closed in 2016. That restaurant was helmed by Diana Davila, a chef who clearly hasn’t done anything since leaving Andersonville and opening her own restaurant, Mi Tocaya, in Logan Square. In some ways, Taco Bell is the “Mexican” restaurant Andersonville deserves.

Eli’s Cheesecake Company snags a $1 million grant from the city

Legendary Chicago area bakery Eli’s Cheesecake has received a $1 million grant from the city to build additional facilities for employee education programs like English-as-a-second-language classes as well as room for product development, community partnerships, and more, according to Block Club Chicago. The funds come out of the city’s $40 million community development initiative that aims to revitalize the local economy following pandemic shutdowns. Eli’s Cheesecake is already in the midst of a $9.5 million expansion that will add 42,000 square feet to its Harwood Heights home, and president Marc Shulman tells reporters that he plans to spend an additional $1 million on the additions to match the city’s grant.

United Center

1901 West Madison Street, , IL 60612

Eli's Cheesecake Bakery Cafe

6701 W Forest Preserve Ave, Chicago, IL 60634 (773) 308-7000 Visit Website

Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream

964 West 31st Street, , IL 60608 (773) 565-4192 Visit Website

Honey Butter Fried Chicken

3361 North Elston Avenue, , IL 60618 (773) 478-4000 Visit Website