A Michigan-based grocer with an outpost in Old Town claims that a newish Chicago grocery brand is driving his business out of town. Matthew Jonna, CEO of gourmet food retailer Plum Market based in suburban Detroit, in a letter to customers on Friday announced that the store will close on June 26 after nine years at 1233 N. Wells Street. The store will be replaced by a second location of Dom’s Kitchen & Market, the grocery company co-founded by industry veteran Bob Mariano, that first opened in July 2021 on the border of Lincoln Park and Lakeview.
In the letter that circulated on social media over the weekend, Jonna contends that the deal with Dom’s was the outcome of a “quiet back-door agreement” that “resulted in the termination of our lease, without Plum Market ever having an option to negotiate or keep our store open.” He goes on to specifically criticize Mariano — the founder of the namesake grocery chain — adding that the company’s actions “cast a dark shadow” over independent grocery operators in the city.
If you live in Old Town you know that Plum market has some of the kindest employees and don’t deserve this. This is a super shady deal and Bob Mariano should know better than to do this to an independent grocer.— JorienLeigh (@JorienEvans) February 25, 2022
This sucks. pic.twitter.com/EYZxwlJ7Ub
Dom’s representatives dispute Jonna’s version of events. In a statement issued to Crain’s and Block Club Chicago, they claim the company was approached (though its unclear by whom) about the Old Town space and reached an agreement with the landlord, Chicago-based real estate investment firm Heitman. Casting Jonna’s narrative as an “ill-founded interpretation,” the statement otherwise declined to make further comments on the dynamic between Plum Market and its local landlord.
Chicago’s official mask and vax mandates end today, though some may choose to keep them
Mask mandates in Chicago — and the rest of Illinois — lift today, and patrons at Chicago restaurants and bars will no longer be required to show their vaccination cards if they plan to stay longer than 10 minutes. The number of new cases has dropped precipitously in the past month, and the current daily average is 250 as of last Friday. But many bars, restaurants, and music venues still plan to require masks, especially in the face of the city’s upcoming St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Beermiscuous, a bar with locations in Lakeview and Highwood, voiced common feelings in a Twitter post last week. “While we are optimistic about the city’s numbers like everyone else,” the post read, “we just don’t feel quite ready to part with a system that has worked to keep customers and staff safe and healthy these past few months that these mandates have been in place.” Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, told the Tribune that he hoped that the end of the mandates would give a boost to the restaurant business, which has had a dismal winter, but that owners should do what makes them feel comfortable.
Russian Tea Time owner announces support for Ukraine
Despite the name of her restaurant, Klara Muchnik, the chef and owner of Russian Tea Time in the Loop, was actually born and raised in Ukraine and worked as a nurse in Uzbekistan before moving to Chicago in 1990. On Friday, after Russian troops invaded Ukraine, she issued a statement on social media in support of her homeland.
“We are heartbroken by the recent news,” she wrote; “our thoughts and prayers are with those who are affected by this inhumane and despicable invasion. We do not support the politics of the Russian government. We support human rights, freedom of speech, and fair democratic elections.
“Украинцы (Ukrainians), the world is with you, the world is behind you. Stay strong, our hearts are with you!”
Chicago Restaurant Week reservations are open
Reservations are now open for the 15th annual Chicago Restaurant Week, which runs from Friday, March 25, through Sunday, April 10. More than 300 restaurants from all parts of the city and the suburbs will be participating this year, according to a rep, offering specially-priced prix fixe menus for dine-in or takeout. New to the roster this year are Jaleo, El Solazo, and Majani, among many others. A full list, along with menus and reservation information, is posted on the Choose Chicago website.
And in more restaurant week news...
Meanwhile, for those who just can’t wait, Lakeview Roscoe Village Restaurant Week is already underway, Block Club reports, and lasts until Sunday, March 6. Nineteen neighborhood restaurants will be offering prix-fixe meals and cocktails, and $3 from every meal will be donated to the Lakeview and Common food pantries. Customers who dine at two or more participating restaurants can submit their receipts to the Lakeview Roscoe Village Chamber of Commerce for a chance to win prizes, mostly gift cards from local stores. And Greektown Restaurant Week begins tomorrow, March 1, and goes on through next Monday, March 7, according to a rep. Five Greek spots, including Artopolis Bakery and Greek Islands Restaurant, are slated to participate, as well as Dugans on Halsted and Taco Burrito King.