Coronavirus will hurt Chicago restaurants

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“The entire Chicago hospitality industry will clearly take an unprecedented and definitely unforeseen economic blow in 2020,” Doerr said. “Based on the major McCormick Place trade shows announced this month, more than 109,000 business travelers responsible for more than 107,000 room nights will not visit Chicago this month, nor will their discretionary and entertainment spending often important.”

So far, Scott Weiner, co-founder of Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, which operates 18 mostly neighborhood restaurants and bars outside tourist areas, has yet to feel the effects. But he agrees that the loop and surrounding areas will see the first and longest lasting impact.

Concerns about the virus spreading among attendees of large public gatherings — that’s why Weiner believes venues in the neighborhood remain stable for now. But with an industry used to tight margins and high turnover, the coronavirus is adding an additional burden to restaurateurs.

“I’m worried about all of our hotel properties, but I’ve seen an elevator in our neighborhoods before,” Weiner said.

How can the city help? To mitigate short-term financial losses, Kokonas would like Mayor Lori Lightfoot to reduce the sales tax — currently at 11.75% — and strengthen incentives for people to visit local restaurants.

“The city is closely monitoring the fiscal impact of the coronavirus,” said Kristen Cabanban, spokeswoman for the city’s finance department. City officials may not know the full budget impact for several weeks. “Tax remittances are behind schedule, so we don’t yet have accurate data on changes in sales receipts.”

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