Watch CBS News

Englewood rallying to save soul food restaurant after whopper gas bill of $16,000

Shocking gas bill forces closure of Englewood soul food restaurant
Shocking gas bill forces closure of Englewood soul food restaurant 02:02

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Shut down and out of business; a beloved soul food restaurant in Englewood has closed its doors because the owner can't pay the gas bill, but a local community group is stepping in to help save the business.

Georgia Utendahl, 78, owns Georgia's Food Depot in Englewood near 73rd and Halsted streets. Last November, she was stunned when she got a $16,000 bill from Peoples Gas.

"I looked at it about four or five times, and I'm still thinking $1,600" she said.

She couldn't pay it, so the utility shut off her gas. The problem started last year in February, when she got a bill of $1,000. Then in August, it was $2,000. And then in November, it was $16,000.

Previously, her bills were around $300 to $400 a month, according to Utendahl.

"We were closed two days lesser than we used to be. We were seven days a week. So we started working five days a week," she said.

Utendahl said her gas has been cut off for four weeks. That means she's been unable to cook and provide heat throughout her entire restaurant. She said, in those four weeks, she's lost $10,000.

The Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation has stepped in to help this small business, which is on the brink of shutting down for good.

"What we have done is identify any grants that are out there, so she can apply for those," said the group's small business development director, Rhea Steele.

The group is also trying to help her get a loan and start a GoFundMe drive.

Utendahl opened her restaurant in hopes of providing healthy soul food in an area that was a food desert. She struggled to stay open during the pandemic, and now she's struggling to reopen her doors.

"It's kind of unfair, to me, to get this big overwhelming bill," she said.

A Peoples Gas spokesperson said the company reached out to Utendahl several times in recent weeks, but never heard back. 

"We ask our customers to please review their bills each month and take note of any sudden, drastic, unexplained change in the amount due – and tell us about it immediately so we can fix any problem," spokesman David Schwartz said in an email. "We are always here to help any customer with questions or concerns. This includes free energy efficiency consulting to help reduce bills, payment plans to help manage bills, and financial assistance to help with paying bills."

After speaking to Utendahl on Wednesday, Peoples Gas was able to reach an agreement on an extended payment plan.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.