The city’s neighborhood restaurants are on a post-pandemic boom, but will it be enough? – CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) – A stretch of Broadway has been closed and the street turned into an outdoor dining area for part of last summer to help struggling restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now a grant will help this neighborhood, and 14 others, do something similar.

The objective is to revive businesses. But there is still a big obstacle: bringing back the workers.

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“Let’s face it,” said Maureen Martino, executive director of the East Lakeview Chamber of Commerce. “A lot of these companies have yet to make up a lot of the lost revenue.”

But Martino says being one of the city’s 15 Chicago Alfresco grant winners could end up being a boost for big business. In the case of this neighborhood, help it improve the overall alfresco dining experience – when two blocks of North Broadway are closed again two weekends a month this summer.

Martino says the East Lakeview room will receive a grant of $ 50,000, which will be used for lighting, planters, security, etc. A total of 14 other neighborhood organizations across the city also won similar grants.

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“Community support was absolutely essential,” said Gia Biagi, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation. His department helped select grant recipients and will oversee the closure of additional streets.

“We are absolutely focused on fairness and making sure everyone gets what they need through this program,” said Biagi.

Economic development and business recovery – after the pandemic – are the main objectives. But some, like Martino, fear that this is still not enough. Hiring workers, from dishwashers to service staff, has been a challenge.

“The restaurants are still the same, even if we are soon at 100%, will they still be able to function.”

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Commissioner Biagi said all of Chicago Alfresco is privately funded, all $ 2.5 million.

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