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More Chicago Restaurants, Bars Going Out Of Business Amid COVID-19 Restrictions, Say City Hospitality Grant Won't Be Enough

CHICAGO (CBS) -- And another one – a longtime tavern in Bucktown is calling it a night for good because of COVID-19 and Chicago's restrictions stemming from the virus.

As CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported Thursday night, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a $10 million hospitality grant program for local bars and restaurants earlier in the day. But for some, it's not enough – and it's too late.

This week's unseasonably warm weather in November allows people across Illinois still to enjoy a meal on a patio. But the reality is that fewer people are able to dine out during the recent COVID-19 shutdown.

"A lot of my employees stay home because there's nothing to do," said Mauro Mafrici, owner of Pelago Ristorante, 209 E. Delaware Pl.

At the Streeterville restaurant, the patio is set. Yet Mafrici said he has already reduced his staff from 45 to fewer than 15 on the payroll.

And when the temperatures drop next week, neither the patio nor grabbing a table inside will be an option.

"I wish not too many restaurants close because Chicago's a great restaurant city," Mafrici said.

But indeed countless businesses are closing. Among the latest is Danny's Tavern, at 1951 W. Dickens Ave. in Bucktown.

It has been in business since 1986, and its doors are closing for good due to COVID-19.

And the list keeps growing. Lawry's the Prime Rib on Ontario Street off the Magnificent Mile is also closing permanently, and in Fulton Market, Maude's is also closing up.

And no one will stand again inside Standing Room Only in restaurant Printers Row, as it has also gone out of business.

Money is tight, and Mafrici said government needs to consider a rent moratorium for business owners.

"This doesn't make sense," he said. "If you're not allowing me to serve nobody, they're supposed to freeze everything."

Under the plan with the emergency grant that Mayor Lightfoot announced Thursday, businesses with annual revenue of less than $3 million would qualify for up to $10,000 apiece.

But without a rent moratorium, Mafrici questions just how much that would help.

"It's a lot of restaurants in Chicago," he said. "I don't think if you split %10 million with all the restaurants, I think it's very little."

Pelago hopes to weather this COVID-19 storm. As for those grants, the application process starts Nov. 16, and will get distributed through a lottery.

The mayor also wants the City Council to temporarily cap the fees that third-party companies can charge restaurants for their delivery services.


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