CHICAGO (CBS) — While the city prepares to reopen next week, some businesses that are not on the list are crying foul. CBS2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker talks to tavern and bar owners, who face thousands of dollars in city fees, even though their doors remain closed.
Ryan Donson runs Cookie’s Cocktail Lounge, a classic Chicago “neighborhood bar” that has been in business for 36 years.
This is the first time Cookie’s has been closed, and it hurts. Of course, never in all that time, has a global health crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak caused such sweeping economic hardship.
“We’re still paying bills, our rent and mortgage,” said Donson. “We have to eat. It’s a lot with no additional income coming in.”
While many Chicago businesses were forced to close because of the coronavirus pandemic, some can open next week—but not taverns.
“Despite all these steps towards reopening during phase three, there are still a number of sectors which unfortunately we expect to remain closed for the time being,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters earlier this month.
There are more than 800 taverns across the city–and 100 of them have licenses expiring this summer. Most of them must remain closed until further notice.
“It’s really sad,” Donson said. “We could be on the verge of losing it.
Donson figures she’s lost close to $40,000 during the shutdown and she’s not alone.
To add to their financial woes, the 100 tavern owners have to pay $4,400 by July 15 to renew their liquor licenses–whether they’re open for business or not.
Charlene Brown owns the Phase II lounge—where chairs stacked up on tables collect dust.
“The problem is trying to pay the bills, and you’re closed,” Brown said. “It’s kinda hard to do.”
Charles Gordon owns the Family Den lounge.
“If we can’t use something we paid for they should at least give us credit for that amount.” Gordon said.
Charlene Tyler, the owner of the Junction bar, has another suggestion: “Give us an extension or reduction. We already loss three months.”
Even when their doors are finally opened, social distancing rules will limit capacity. At Cookie’s, 50 people may be 30 too many.
“Our customer base won’t be the same so revenue won’t be the same,” Donson said.
Cookie’s Lounge is in Alderman Howard Brookins’ 21st Ward.
“These small businesses make our neighborhood great, charming, and locations where people want to live,” Brookins said. “It is imperative that we keep those businesses in our community
Brookins also supports extending the deadline for liquor licenses—or giving owners credit. Something Jillian Terry, the manager of Time Out, and others would appreciate
“It’s not just not the bills at the bar, it’s bills at our home,” Terry said. “We’re being shut down every way, and funds are not coming in to pay those bills.”