As Chicago races through the first week of 2023, these are some of the restaurant stories that broke in late December that locals may have missed during the holiday hoopla.
New Year’s Day meant hundreds of new laws going into effect in Illinois. That includes a raise in the state’s minimum wage, which affects fast-food workers and others in the restaurant industry. As the Trib notes, the state’s minimum wage has increased by $1 to $13 per hour. That’s separate from Chicago workers at places with 20 or more employees. The minimum wage in the city is $15.40 per hour. That will increase on July 1 by 2.5 percent or the rate of inflation — whatever is larger.
Jean Banchet Awards skipping 2023
The Jean Banchet Awards, the annual event that recognizes excellence in Chicago’s culinary community, is skipping 2023. Organizers are regrouping and filing to form their own nonprofit that’s independent of the Greater Illinois Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the charity the Banchets have benefitted since 2002. Michael Muser, co-owner of Ever and After — and the event’s longtime host — tells the Tribune they’ll hire their own staff, including an executive director. Breaking away from the foundation will give the Banchets more autonomy.
Late last year, the Banchets found itself in controversy after a nominee was accused of mistreating customers at S.K.Y. in Pilsen. The Banchet organizers, facing pressure from a few sides, removed the sommelier’s name from the nomination pool.
The Hideout is poised to reopen
The Hideout, the dive and small concert venue, nestled between Lincoln Park and Bucktown along the Elston Industrial Corridor, is reopening next week, Tuesday, January 10. The bar had been closed for two months as it reckoned with an Instagram post from a former worker who claimed owners created a toxic workplace that was not welcoming to Black people. Among the cited incidents was when ownership allegedly refused to act after the worker was spat on by a white customer. That worker was eventually fired for alleged performance issues. Hideout ownership says they’ve taken the time to create a Diversity & Inclusion Council and create better staff resources.
Baker Miller briefly closes due to COVID
As America deals with another COVID variant, here’s a reminder that the country remains in a pandemic. Baker Miller in Lincoln Square closed the last week of December after a worker tested positive for COVID. An Instagram post laments the financial hit: “Sad way to end the year but we’ll come back stronger.” The city may still issue a mask advisory (not a mandate) if COVID levels increase as they did two weeks ago.