A West Town team may have pitched the most unique idea so far.
The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group is raffling off happy hours with former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Cubs co-owner Tom Ricketts, ESPN reporter Sarah Spain and Real Housewives Of New York co-star Tinsley Mortimer.
Raffle tickets start at $20 and will be sold through 11 p.m. May 12. Winners will be announced May 13. Participants must be 21+.
Happy hours with Emanuel, Ricketts and Spain will be virtual and winners can e-invite up to five guests. The happy hour with Mortimer will take place in real life, in Chicago, after the shutdown ends.
In addition to the happy hours, Fifty/50 is raffling off several other prizes, from a six month coffee subscription at Dark Matter Coffee to a $1,500 bottle of bourbon.
Fifty/50 co-owners Greg Mohr and Scott Weiner aim to raise at least $20,000.
Proceeds will fund free meals for laid off bar and restaurant workers and for essential workers. For every $1,000 raised, 100 free meals are provided to those in need.
None of the participants are receiving money for their time, Weiner said.
Weiner said he’s known Ricketts for 14 years and that Emanuel has dined at his restaurants. Spain is an old friend, he added.
While he’s never personally hung out with Emanuel and has “no idea” what the man drinks, Weiner imagines the former mayor is someone who would be fun to talk to for an hour.
The restauranteur acknowledged the prizes aren’t for everyone.
After announcing the raffle in an email to 80,000 people, Weiner said he got a couple of replies along the lines of, “F— you guys.”
But a lot of Chicagoans are into it.
Within the first 36 hours of launching the fundraiser, the group has sold more than 150 raffle tickets — raising more than $3,000 for the meal donations.
“While I haven’t always agreed with everything on [Emanuel’s] political side … he was more than happy to be a part of it,” Weiner said. “For me, this isn’t about politics. These are some people that have really just said, ‘We want to help raise money to feed first responders and those in need.'”
Buy a raffle ticket and see a full list of prizes here.
Raffle proceeds will pay for meal donations at hospitals and senior centers. The money will also supplement Fifty/50’s ongoing meal giveaway program for laid off restaurant and bar workers.
Funded in part by national nonprofit The LEE Initiative, this program provides free meals and groceries to laid off hospitality workers 4-6:30 p.m. daily at West Town Bakery, 1916 W. Chicago Ave.
This program is separate from another effort at the group’s namesake sports bar, Fifty/50, 2047 W. Division St. Funded entirely by an anonymous tech CEO, Fifty/50 is making free meals for any person in need — no questions asked — from 4-6:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
In addition to Fifty/50, in Ukrainian Village, and West Town Bakery, in East Ukrainian Village, the group manages Roots Handmade Pizza, 1924 W. Chicago Ave.
Since Gov. JB Pritzker ordered the statewide closure of restaurants and bars, restaurants in Chicago have seen an average 80 percent revenue loss.
The National Restaurant Association estimates 15-20 percent of restaurants nationwide will close for good as a result of the pandemic, Illinois Restaurant Association president Sam Toia has said.
The Fifty/50 group had about 600 employees before the shutdown. As of Thursday, 105 were employed and the company was still paying the team’s health insurance premiums, Weiner said.
The group is also hiring — a new Roots location will open soon in South Loop and Weiner needs managers. Apply here.
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