“Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood: West Loop | Chicago News
It is one of the most expensive and vibrant communities in the city. The West Loop is known for its trendy Michelin-rated restaurants and vibrant nightlife. It’s located, unsurprisingly, just west of the loop, and construction cranes dot the sky.
But the neighborhood, like any other, has had to adapt to the closures – and it has done so in a big way, shutting down entire sections of Fulton Market and parts of Randolph so restaurants can build structures for dining. outside. This, with federal emergency assistance, has kept most of these establishments in operation.
Interactive map: More from our series of community reports
Restaurant owner Donnie Madia, whose One Off Hospitality runs establishments like Publican and Avec, says the challenge now is to bring back workers to meet customer demand.
“Everyone is fighting for the same person – not just restaurants, but other industries,” Madia said. “We are getting closer to meeting these desperate needs, but we still need a few more people. “
And that’s not the only problem. Manish Mallick, owner of progressive Indian restaurant ROOH, says the costs of food and supplies have increased by 20-30%. But he doesn’t want to have to raise menu prices, which makes daily cash flow hit or miss – especially in the West Loop.
“A working-class neighborhood means higher costs. When we don’t have guests coming for dinner, our costs don’t go away, so the risk is higher, ”Mallick said. But he notes that there is a bright spot.
“Staffing, like the rest of our industry colleagues, is our number one challenge. However, we have noticed in the last two weeks since Labor Day that things have started to improve.
Many long-standing companies have had to get creative to make ends meet. Chicago has been back to full capacity for more than three months, but that doesn’t mean companies have seen 100% of their pre-pandemic levels return.
Susan Rothman, owner of Pure Barre West Loop, says the bills have stayed the same but the money coming in is still not what it was in 2019. She says she paid her rent in full on it. expensive block, but started to feel the tension at the beginning of this year.
“I went to my landlord and told him that due to the length of this I needed relief,” Rothman said. “It’s hard to hear some of the stories and some of the differences – some owners are really willing to work with people and some are playing hard. To be fair, looking at the commercial space available across the city, it doesn’t seem like the time has come to play hard, especially with small and medium businesses that offer a lot of variety and vibrancy.
Rothmann is also a member of the West Central Association Chamber of Commerce, a chamber located in a neighborhood at the level of development that many areas would envy. She recognizes that there can be a standoff with residents who want the development but are wary of the impacts on the neighborhood and rising costs. Rothman says public engagement processes have led to changes in the projects “to better fit into the neighborhood, to give back to the community, whether it’s in green spaces or the money that goes into some. funds. It’s a really encouraging and productive dialogue in terms of residents, businesses, developers and the city.
Ald. Water Burnett, whose 27th Ward includes the West Loop, says that despite the pandemic and civil unrest last year, business has been booming – including with some outdoor dining adjustments in the era of covid that have proven to be popular becoming a staple.
“We let them go off the sidewalk onto the street (last year) and now we allow them to keep it like that,” Burnett said. “Fulton was designed to give the impression of a pedestrian so people can walk and eat. This area has been maintained – and it has also helped support the economic development of the city of Chicago, as construction continues in this area regardless.
Video: Watch our full interview with Ald. Walter burnett
West Loop is also home to the venerable nonprofit Open Books, a second-hand bookstore that uses its proceeds to provide books, as well as reading and writing instruction, to underprivileged students in Chicago. The pandemic has put a damper on the in-person work they could do, but now that school is back in class, they’re back to deliver books to class and home.
“Research shows that the more books you have at home, and in all places where reading can take place, the more engaged the child will be in reading,” said Eric Johnson, executive director of Open Books. “We too, during this pandemic, have increasingly started to donate books directly to households. Having books in classrooms, books at home, and books even in unusual places (like) small business corners …
In the midst of all the development, there is also the issue of affordable housing. Carla Agostinelli of the West Loop Community Organization says the development boom is helping projects across the city and region.
“Of more than 50 projects built in the West Loop, we invested $ 113 million in Invest South / West and $ 4 million stayed here. It’s an incredible amount, but what this opportunity does makes it affordable throughout the city of Chicago. What we’re doing here by working closely with the developers and the alderman is to bring more affordable units here to the West Loop. We want this to be an opportunity for everyone to come and play, live and work here, ”said Agostinelli.
Video: Watch our full interview with Carla Agostinelli
Community Report Series
“Chicago Tonight” Expands Community Reporting. We take to the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. Find out where we’ve been and what we’ve learned using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in Red represent our COVID-19 Across Chicago series; blue marks our “Chicago Tonight” series in Your Neighborhood.