As Russia’s war in Ukraine stretches into its third week with a devastating escalation on the ground, a troubling trend of public ire and backlash against Russian restaurants in the U.S. has reached Chicago. Russian Tea Time, the 29-year-old Eastern European landmark in the Loop, has seen a dramatic influx in angry calls and social media messages that erroneously link the restaurant to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military invasion, according to the Tribune.
For co-founder Vadim Muchnik, a Ukrainian American who opened the restaurant with his mother (who was also its original chef) in 1993 and remains a minority owner, the deluge of misplaced anger has left him afraid for the staff — some of whom hail from Ukraine — and the potential for xenophobic sentiments to grow and fester.
Muchnik has reason to be concerned: Russian restaurants in New York City, Washington D.C., San Diego, and beyond are getting hit with vandalism, canceled reservations, and negative online reviews. This is all despite many owners’s efforts to distance themselves from Putin’s regime with fundraisers and public declarations of support for Ukrainians and their independence. These include Russian Tea Time, which on February 25 posted a pro-Ukrainian message to social media, and Chicago Bath House, a Russian bath house in Wicker Park previously known as Red Square, which serves Russian food and is now flying a blue and yellow Ukranian flag outside.
“We are heartbroken by the recent news; our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this inhumane and despicable invasion,” Russian Tea Time’s post reads. “We do not support the policies of the Russian government. We support human rights, free speech, and fair democratic elections.”
Choose Chicago gets its first women CEO
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday announced the selection of Lynn Osmond as the first woman president and CEO of Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism arm behind major food and cultural events like Chicago Restaurant Week and Chicago Gourmet. Osmond previously worked as president and CEO of the Chicago Architecture Center. She’s replacing former CEO David Whitaker, whose contract expired in July 2021.
Correction: A 13-member board picks the chief executive officer, not Chicago’s mayor as previously stated.
Pilsen leaders and neighbors sue the city over a bar’s ongoing liquor license saga
Pilsen Ald. (25th Ward) Byron Sigcho-Lopez and the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council on Monday filed a lawsuit against the city and former 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis alleging that they inappropriately approved a bar’s liquor license despite a rule banning taverns along a swath of Blue Island Avenue. The lawsuit claims city officials granted a license to the Giant Penny Whistle, a bar and music venue at 1854 S. Blue Island Avenue without lifting a 1995 ban on drinking establishments on the avenue between 16th and 19th streets. Block Club Chicago has more.
Conventions are finally returning to Chicago’s enormous convention center
After two tumultuous years of canceled and altered trade shows and events, mammoth convention center McCormick Place is beginning to resemble its former self. The Inspired Home Show, the first major gathering to hit pause in the early stages of the pandemic, returned this month for the first time since 2019. Both the National Restaurant Association and the International Housewares Association are expected to resume in-person events in the coming months. The Trib digs into the financial implications of the transition at McCormick and throughout the city’s hospitality industry.