CLARIFICATION: While Special Service Areas have been used to fund private security patrols in other parts of the city, the Fulton Market District Improvement Association is not going that route, and instead is asking for sponsorships for local businesses. Updated story follows.
The owners of restaurants including Publican, Girl & the Goat, Federales, and Aba want to raise $800,000 to hire a private security company to patrol Fulton Market and West Loop: “One of the board's objectives is to pursue solutions that make our neighborhoods safer for both our employees and patrons,” says Boka Restuarant Group co-founder Kevin Boehm.
Boehm and Boka’s Rob Katz are part of the group of owners, the Fulton Market District Improvement Association, that’s behind the campaign. Block Club Chicago, which broke the story last week, also reports One Off Hospitality’s Donnie Madia (Publican, Big Star, Avec), Sterling Bay’s Managing Director of Security Erin Belknap (Four Corners, which funds Federales, is part of the developer’s purview), and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ Jay Stieber (Chicago’s largest restaurant group), are part of the effort as members of the association’s board. Other members include developers like Jeff Shapack (Shapack Partners).
The association did not answer Eater’s requests for information about who else sits on the board or about the impact of the patrols, particularly about pushing crime to areas outside patrol boundaries. The association plans to deploy three to four patrol cars between Washington Boulevard, Hubbard Avenue, North Ogden Avenue, and North Halsted Street, according to Block Club. The patrol boundaries precisely cut out the 34th Ward and restaurants like Monteverde.
An increasing number of private groups in Chicago neighborhoods have begun hiring private security to help deter crime such as carjackings, burglaries, and muggings. For example, in 2021, the co-owner of the Bristol, John Ross, was a victim of a carjacking and hospitalized. A year later, Bucktown Neighbors Association hired P4 Security Solutions in December.
The cost in Fulton Market would be $800,000 to hire P4, according to the restaurant owners. At a town hall meeting last week, Madia said they’ve been working on a security proposal for a year. This would be P4’s largest patrol area, as it also works in parts of Lakeview and Lincoln Park. Other neighborhoods have established Special Service Areas, which takes tax money, to pay for such services. The Fulton Market group is not going that route. They’re seeking donations or sponsorships from $1,000 to $100,000.
Armed security teams are often made up of off-duty or retired police officers. No P4 member has ever shot a gun during a patrol, P4 principal Steve Vitale tells the Real Deal. The company communicates with locals using an app.
Street dining and to-go cocktails to continue
Earlier this week, the city of Chicago made its pandemic-era street dining program (which closed streets to car traffic) permanent. The main concern was giving alderpersons the ability to approve permits, which the revised ordinance accomplished. Another pandemic program was also extended as Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature made delivery and to-go cocktails legal for another five years, through August 1, 2028. The world did not end, despite the rigor it took to gain approval. Bartenders like Kumiko’s Julia Momose pushed for the measure to help survive when politicians closed bars during the early parts of the pandemic.
South Shore restaurant opportunities
The South Shore is looking to attract more sit-down restaurants. The neighborhood has places like vegan spot Majani and South Shore Brew but lacks a full-service diner like Daley’s Restaurant in Woodlawn. On Saturday, June 3, there’s a panel discussion that aims to give prospective restaurant owners the info they need to succeed. It’s presented by the South Shore Chamber Community Development Corporation and the South Shore Chamber of Commerce. Featured speakers include Craig Richardson of brunch mini-chain Batter & Berries. It’s at 11 a.m. at the Gary Comer Youth Center, 7200 S. Ingleside Avenue.