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Rogers Park and Edgewater Businesses Face the Impacts of the Coronavirus Spread and People Staying Home

Mary Grace Ritter | The PhoenixClarke's Rogers Park is just one of many Chicago restaurants that has suffered low businesses as people are being told to stay in their homes.

With residents ordered to stay-at-home and restaurants limited to delivery and take-out, small businesses in Rogers Park and Edgewater are struggling to stay open. 

Rebecca Ramos, manager of Clarke’s Rogers Park (6431 N. Sheridan Road), said since restaurants and bars were ordered to limit service, she noticed business has dropped and at least six workers have been told not to come in to work. 

She said despite the struggle, she understands this is needed to help stop the outbreak. 

“It’s sad [because] there are people who depend on this job,” Ramos said. “I know the necessity of this. It’s the right move even if it hurts business.”

Illinois is a part of a growing number of states, such as California and Nevada, to enact similar limitations on bars and restaurants to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 — the disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus. The closures and stay-at-home order are set to last until April 7, The Phoenix reported

The stay-at-home order still allows restaurants to stay open and operate with take-out/delivery like before, according to Illinois Restaurant Association spokesperson Janet Isabelli.

As of March 24, Illinois has 1,535 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 16 deaths attributed to the virus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health website. Loyola officials also reported the first confirmed case of a Loyola student with COVID-19, The Phoenix reported.

Ramos’ story echoes what’s happening across the U.S., as the national restaurant industry is predicted to lose $225 billion dollars and cut 5 to 7 million jobs over the next three months, according to the Illinois Restaurant Association

Mary Grace Ritter | The Phoenix

Nibbles and Nosh (6981 N. Sheridan Road) co-owner Lindzi Shanks said her business also had to furlough, or place on leave, two staff members and limit hours to deal with the outbreak. Shanks said business had already dropped 80 percent since the March 16 restrictions — but with the stay-at-home order it’s gone down even more. 

“Right now there are no good decisions, none of this is easy,” Shanks said. “This is hard on us but I 100 percent understand why [restrictions were] made.”

A statement on the company’s Facebook page said the restaurant couldn’t fully support staff while trying to stay in business. To help her workers, Shanks made a GoFundMe page that has already gotten more than $350 in donations.

Torrance Gardner, the director of economic and community development for 49th Ward Alderwoman Maria Hadden — the ward covering Rogers Park — said the city is offering help to small businesses in the form of low-interest loans. 

The loans come from the new Chicago Small Business Resilience Loan Fund and will offer more than $100 million to struggling small businesses that have seen a more than 25 percent decrease in revenue and have less than 50 employees, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced in a press release. Loan applications will start being accepted March 31. 

A similar program offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) — a federal organization designed to help small businesses — is offering disaster assistance loans to small businesses impacted by COVID-19, according to the SBA website.

Lightfoot also announced an extension on tax due dates to April 30 for the bottled water, checkout bag, amusement, hotel accommodation, restaurant and parking tax. Debt collection is halted and ticketing and towing are limited until April 30, as well. 

Sandi Price, the executive of the Rogers Park Business Alliance (RBPA), said its been reaching out to their member businesses and providing information about all resources available.

Price said the RPBA website has a list of resources for small businesses, such as financial assistance through the City of Chicago and marketing tips to improve business. Price said keeping small businesses informed of what’s available to them and helping them navigate it is one of the best ways to help — but residents also need to continue to patronize local businesses as well.

“At the end of the day though, we need major help at the state and federal level [to help small businesses],” Gardner said.

But Shanks said more needs to be done, such as halting rent payments or waiving payroll taxes — a tax employers pay that goes toward Social Security and Medicare. 

“A loan still has to be paid back, so many businesses will take these … and then struggle to pay it all back if they stay open,” Shanks said.

Ellen Bauch | The Phoenix

Metropolis Coffee Company (1039 W. Granville Ave.) made the decision to shut down the coffee shop temporarily and furlough most of its workers, but saw an increase in online sales for coffee beans, said Chief Operations Officer Dan Miracle. 

Employees who were furloughed will still receive benefits and a stipend for groceries, and the owners started a GoFundMe campaign that’s already received more than $3,500 since it was made March 15. 

While the coffee shop is closed, the coffee roasterie — where coffee beans are processed — is still open and orders for coffee beans can still be placed on its website. Miracle said despite an overall decrease in business, online orders for coffee have tripled since before the outbreak.

Despite the “heavy volume” of online sales, Miracle said Metropolis is already looking into loans offered by the SBA.

Local pizza joint J.B. Alberto’s Pizza (1326 W. Morse Ave.) has seen ordinary business levels since the outbreak because take-out and deliveries were already the bulk of its sales, owner Tony Troiano said. 

Troiano said despite some changes — such as offering contactless deliveries, increased sanitation precautions and limiting the number of people waiting in the restaurant foyer — it’s business as usual when it comes to sales. While J.B. Alberto’s doesn’t appear to be as affected as others, Troiano said “[he] feels for his friends who are struggling right now.”

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