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East 75th Street Opens For Restaurant Diners

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Black owned business boom is expected on Chicago's South Side. Owners are now prepping for outdoor dining that is sorely needed. It's happening on 75th Street from Indiana Avenue to Cottage Grove Avenue.

For the Black family businesses on 75th Street, it is a welcome sight. After the area became a COID-19 hotspot, the owners there hope to safely bounce back.

Thursday is normally prep day for Arel Brown.

"It's a high volume day for us because we prepare a lot of things for the weekend," he said.

Now there will be outdoor seating in the grass and on the sidewalk.

"This corner on 75th and Indiana, we have worked really hard to create this corner as a corner of sanity, a corner of protection and a corner of freedom," he said.

Safety is the key along the bustling Black business corridor on 75th Street. Owners hope to leave the financial strain of COVID-19 behind. African American communities are some of the hardest hit.

"Unfortunately the restaurant sales are down 65%. And so the restaurants are just holding on," said Nedra Fears, the executive director of the Greater Chatham Initiative.

Fears heads up the upcoming annual event called Dining on The 5. The nickname for 75th Street is The 5.

The umbrellas and chairs have come out on sidewalks. It's a way these places with limited indoor seating welcome summer business.

"We had initially decided not to do Dining on The 5 because of COVID-19, and then suddenly we got into Phase 3 and the city's like 'come on,'" Fears said.

This year the event comes with no activities and less street music. Places like Brown Sugar Bakery have safety warnings in the windows and rules for outdoor tables.

"This distance part and probably a certain amount of people at one table," said Zoie Reams, who works at Brown Sugar Bakery.

The popular business has been closed for two months. Thursday a table of take out orders was filling up, and many hope it's the same when people safely fill the sidewalks.

This is the only Southside location in Chicago with this organized outside dining. Eleven businesses are participating.

It starts Friday and lasts until September.

Other areas around the city have done this already. In Lakeview businesses averaged $25,000 in revenue over two weekends. The format is a little different there but could be an indicator of what is to come.

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