More than a third of the $23 billion in funds from the federal Payroll Protection Program (PPP) in Illinois that were originally designated for small businesses like independent restaurants went to less than 2 percent of participants, according to data released Tuesday by the Small Business Administration. The data dump, as reported by the Tribune, doesn’t specify how much money went to each recipient, but reveals that they primarily consisted of large companies walking away with $1 million or more.
Earlier this year, Chicago-based Potbelly came under fire for accepting a $10 million loan (it eventually returned the money before reapplying and keeping a new $10 million amount). Other noteworthy names on the $1 million or more club from Chicago’s food world include Garrett Popcorn and Eataly Chicago. The list also includes Alinea and Next, Rick Bayless’ flagship restaurant (Frontera Grill) and Gibsons Restaurant Group (listed under Restaurant Holdings). Bayless, one of Chicago’s best known chefs, has been vocal with the challenges during the pandemic. He even talked to the Tribune about his reluctance to offer to-go food until he was backed into a corner.
Evidence that the vast majority of funds went to the largest borrowers underscores what many independent restaurant owners in Chicago already believed about the much-criticized PPP program. A group of restaurant owners calling themselves Chicago Hospitality Coalition in April called for significant fixes to the loan program, including Jason Hammel (Lula Cafe), Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp (Honey Butter Fried Chicken), and Paul Kahan (One Off Hospitality Group). The group also included Bayless and Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard of Boka Restaurant Group (Girl & the Goat), who both wound up recieving loans.
Here are a few noteworthy Chicago names and the loan amounts listed by the Small Business Administration:
- Potbelly: $10 million
- Hogsalt Management: $7.2 million
- Fooda: $5.7 million
- Rosebud Restaurants: $4.2 million
- Vienna Beef $3.9 million
- V&V Supremo Foods $3.9 million
- World’s Finest Chocolate: $3.4 million
- Gibsons Restaurants (Restaurant Holdings): $3.4 million
- Eataly: $3 million
- Garrett Popcorn: $2.5 million
- Maple & Ash Management: $1.9 million
- Boka Management: $1.8 million
- Frontera Grill: $1.7 million
- Protein Bar: $1.7 million
- Eli’s Cheesecake Company: $1.6 million
- Next Restaurant: $1.6 million
- Chicago Cut Steakhouse: $1.5 million
- The Gage: $1.4 million
- Steak 48: $1.3 million
- Revolution Beer: $1.2 million
- City Winery: $1.2 million
- Purple Pig: $1.2 million
- Alinea: $1.1 million
- Little Goat: $1.1 million
- Greek Islands: $1.1 million
In other news…
— Ownership at new Southeast Side restaurant and lounge Nipsey’s, inspired by Fox’s ‘90s sitcom Martin, is looking for experienced Black bartenders so the spot can start selling cocktails to go. The bar is from Chicago hospitality vet Teddy Gilmore (DrinkHaus, Nouveau Tavern).
— Popular local hot dog mini-chain Devil Dawgs is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with $1 Chicago dogs on Wednesday and Thursday, according to a news release. The special is available at all four locations in the Lincoln Park, South Loop, Wicker Park, Lakeview. Place orders online for pickup and delivery. Then, on Sunday, the brand will permanently close its original location in Lincoln Park. Operators hope to find a new location in the same area and aim to reopen by summer 2021. Devil Dawgs was inspired by the iconic DePaul-area hot dog stand, Demon Dogs.
— Old Town’s Mexican-meets-Korean restaurant Forastero has launched a rotating meat- and dairy-free menu on “Vegan Mondays.” This coming week will feature animal-free versions of the restaurant’s shrimp tacos, kimchi fries, and horchata. Place pre-orders online.
— World-famous fine dining restaurant Alinea is collaborating with two-Michelin-starred restaurant Vespertine in LA. Alinea chef Grant Achatz mentored Vespertine chef Jordan Kahn, and now the two are presenting “iconic recipes and concepts from Alinea’s opening year 2005” in the form of two tasting menus. More details are available via Tock.
— Chicago officials have revoked a demolition permit previously issued for a historic Fulton Market building that most recently housed West Loop beacon La Luce, according to the Tribune. A rep from the city’s Department of Planning and Development told reporters that the permit was issued by mistake, and any possible demolition is postponed until at least May 1. The building was originally constructed in the early 1890s at 1393-1399 West Lake Street. La Luce, a popular destination before and after United Center and Chicago Stadium events, had a 27-year run. The building also had a stint as a Schilitz tavern.
— Iconic 24-hour suburban diner Omega Restaurant has temporarily shut its doors until February, the Trib reports. Owner Tom Konstantopoulos says Illinois’ indoor dining ban forced him to press pause on operations, but he says the restaurant isn’t going anywhere. The late-night stalwart has a retro feel, including those vertical coolers displaying cakes and other desserts.