Businesses across the Chicago area have been waiting all week, all month, and really, all year for Friday’s full reopening.
They said keeping their doors open was anything but easy, but they feel relieved that this day has finally come.
“This is like a blessing for this Friday to come for us,” said Chef Gabriel Miranda, with Paisans Pizzeria.
They weren’t sure if this day would actually happen.
But the folks behind Paisans Pizzeria in the South Loop said they’re ready to make a complete comeback.
“We never really had a grand opening. So 50% capacity, we lost employees, not enough revenue to keep them on board. It was tough,” Miranda said.
Miranda said the few corporate offices in the area that did keep their employees in the building were their saving grace.
“It was a blessing for us to have those orders,” he said. “Those deliveries or those orders kept food on the table for our employees.”
The struggle was also real for The Promontory in Hyde Park, which is known for bringing in some of the hottest acts to the city’s South Side.
Venue Manager Jake Austen said they did the best they could under the tight COVID restrictions.
“We really weren’t allowed to let people dance, and that was really difficult,” Austen said. “Telling people they can’t dance with their wife to good music is just a horrible position to be in.”
But one of the biggest themes appearing to permeate the city is hope.
“To be able to look up at that wall and say this is what we do. We get to bring these artists to the South Side and to Hyde Park, and the people in this community don’t have to travel to see the artists they love,” Austen said. “Getting to look up at that wall is really an inspiration when it gets challenging here.”
In Lincoln Park, business is slowly but surely getting back to normal.
Robin Hammond, vice president of the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, said restaurants and shops are bracing for big crowds and high spirits.
“We’re so excited for the businesses that have made it to the other side, and we’re excited to celebrate with them this summer,” Hammond said.
Back at Paisans, the chef said they’re pulling out all the stops for the reopening, and he’s hoping customers will come out and give them a chance.
“Chaos. I want this restaurant to be full. I want to run out of stuff,” Miranda said. “Come out and visit us at 700 S. Clark, and, you never know, I might buy your entree, your meal. We have everything fresh, high quality.”
The businesses and owners said, while they are extremely excited about Phase 5, safety is still a top priority.
They’re counting on this reopening to stick, so we can all get back to enjoying life as normal.
WATCH | La Grange businesses welcome back customers at full capacity
For the first time in a long time, the Blueberry Hill Breakfast Cafe in La Grange was packed with customers Friday as Illinois officially re-opened.
“It’s a beautiful feeling to try to get back to normal and see all the people that I haven’t seen for a while,” said owner Chris Manolis. “It’s beautiful, it’s a beautiful thing.”
The popular west suburban eatery – which has been around for over 20 years with 7 other locations – managed to survive the pandemic. It operated at full capacity Friday morning, with mask wearing optional for the fully-vaccinated as some COVID precautions still loom.
Other small businesses in the village are seeing a re-opening surge as well. Vintage Charm clothing store welcomed loyal customers back as well.
“Weddings, showers, birthdays, graduations are back and our customers are here,” owner Susie Shea said. “They haven’t shopped in over a year.”
And although business is bustling, Nancy Cummings, the executive director of the La Grange Business Association, said that despite the state’s reopening, small businesses still face staffing and supply challenges as they hit the restart button on their businesses.
“It’s not only finding qualified candidates, but filtering through the applications and training them, and getting them acclimated to the business,” Cummings said. “It’s also the supply chain. They need product. They need it yesterday.”
To help local businesses, the LBA has launched its Come-Sit-Play-Stay effort. As a part of their campaign to encourage people to shop and dine in La Grange, an exhibit of 35 hand-painted public dog houses are on display with a special eve set planned for June 26.
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