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Downtown Businesses, Recouping After Protests, Delay Reopening

Many businesses on Michigan Avenue and State Street have delayed reopening as a result of recent looting and vandalism.

Glass is broken along Wacker Drive on May 30, 2020 as protests occurred downtown Chicago for the second day and night in a row following George Floyd's death in Minneapolis.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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DOWNTOWN — The city is allowing more businesses to open this week — but many Downtown businesses are taking their time after recent unrest.

Chicago moved into Phase 3 of its reopening plan Wednesday, allowing restaurants to open for outdoor dining and for non-essential retail stores to come back. But the Loop and River North also saw looting and vandalism over the weekend, leaving many storefronts damaged.

Michael Edwards, president and CEO of the Chicago Loop Alliance, said unrest coming in the middle of a pandemic introduced another set of concerns for business owners to address. He doesn’t see local businesses participating fully in the reopening for a few days. 

“It’s a very confusing time for everyone, and especially business owners who are starting to get their heads around the pandemic and how they might adjust to that,” Edwards said. “Of course, the protests over the weekend and some of the damage that was done sort of complicated matters significantly.”

The physical conditions of some businesses means they might not be ready to reopen, Edwards said.

“I think they’re all probably contacting their insurance companies with regards to damages and lost inventory, and so I don’t really think they’re going to be robust until next week,” Edwards said. 

Adam Skaf, a Magnificent Mile Association spokesman, said some of the larger businesses on the city’s famed shopping strip have delayed their reopening “as much as a week” due to the weekend’s events.

Besides looting and vandalism, the Downtown area also faced unique restrictions: It was effectively cut off from the rest of the city earlier in the week when Mayor Lori Lightfoot, seeking to protect businesses and move police into residential neighborhoods, had CTA access cut off, bridges raised, roads blocked and National Guard checkpoints implemented.

Some of those restrictions have now been partially lifted, though bus and train service hasn’t returned in full.

Area businesses also have some advantages.

Because the Loop mostly contains larger national and multi-national stores, concerns about having enough personal protective equipment were mostly non-existent for their members, Edwards and Skaf said.

“I think our businesses are well-resourced in many ways. [They’re] national and international brands that may have had their own plans for [personal protective equipment], say a Starbucks or a Nike versus a small business on the South or the West side,” Skaf said. 

Most of the business owners’ concerns are about different regulations for preventing the spread of coronavirus and how to adhere to them, Edwards said.

“I’m just walking from a meeting with a restaurant owner who has concerns — or, rather, questions — about how to set up an outdoor dining area,” Edwards said. “And so we kind of walked through the regulations where they could and could not do outdoor dining. I think we’ll be doing that on a regular basis.”

Skaf said the Magnificent Mile Association and its member businesses have prepared for reopening during Phase 3, and it’s important to them to do it correctly.

“We’re ready to reopen, we’re ready to do it right and to do it safely,” Skaf said.

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