Chicago Restaurants Call on Congress to Replenish Restaurant Revitalization Fund

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An empty restaurant in Lakeview. Photo: Monica Eng / Axios

Chicago restaurants are asking for renewed help amid the latest wave.

  • “We were in good standing before the pandemic… then [during the pandemic] we got PPPs and worked hard to get it back and we thought everything would be fine, ”Diana Davila, chef-owner of Mi Tocaya Antojeria, told Axios.
  • “But with this latest wave, we’re back to square one.”

Driving the news: Over the weekend, 25 major city mayors, including Lori Lightfoot, sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund or risk losing crucial parts of the community.

Between the lines: For many Chicago restaurateurs, the current moment brings a triple whammy of special challenges:

  • Omicron infections prevent workers from entering the restaurant and scare customers away.
  • Shortage of rapid tests and PCR results that can take up to five days.
  • Frigid temperatures that make even the hardiest outdoor diners think twice before going out.

The last: Restaurant owners tell us it’s still too early to tell if the law requiring customers to show proof of vaccination is hurting or helping restaurants.

  • “The biggest problem right now is that a lot of my staff can’t come because their children (CPS) aren’t back to school,” says RJ Melman of Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants.

The bottom line: “We see places being closed all the time,” says Davila. “I don’t want to hear another politician say that small businesses are the backbone of our communities if they don’t do anything about it.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to note that the emergency aid program is called the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, not the Restaurant Relief Fund.

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