BUCKTOWN — A longtime regular at Arturo’s Tacos is raising money to help the restaurant’s servers get back on their feet after the shutdown.
The staple, at 2001 N. Western Ave. on the Bucktown/Logan Square border, has been Angelo Dolojan’s go-to spot for years — he even had his wedding dinner there last year. When the pandemic hit, he wanted to give back to the restaurant that treated him like family, so he created a fundraiser selling tote bags to raise money for the restaurant’s servers, many of whom have lost their jobs or can’t work because of coronavirus.
The tote bags, for sale in black, navy and natural for $20.99, say “Everything is Okay” and “Everything is Fine.” He hopes to sell 500 tote bags by July 13 to raise about $2,200 after costs for the servers. People can donate on the site, too.
Restaurants like Arturo’s, which don’t have a strong social media presence like other high-profile restaurants in Logan Square, have “always been there for us but at a time like this, we almost forget them,” Dolojan said.
Dolojan, a former server at Le Pain Quotidien who lost his job because of pandemic, said many of the restaurant’s servers need the job to support their families and are primarily Spanish speakers.
Yesica, one of the servers at Arturo’s who did not want her last name published, said she was happy to hear about Dolojan’s campaign. The last few months have been difficult for her financially.
Before the pandemic, she worked five days a week at the restaurant. Now she works only two, she said, and has no other source of income.
“It makes me happy to know there are people like this that are willing to help us,” Yesica said in Spanish.
Yesica said she hopes she will be back to working five days a week soon. Arturo’s reopens Friday for indoor seating at 25 percent of its capacity under the city’s Phase 4 reopening plan, said Arturo Torres Jr., who is helping his parents run the taqueria. His elderly parents are trying to stay home to avoid catching coronavirus, he said.
Initially, there will be five tables available for indoor dining.
“They feel optimistic and cautious at the same time about reopening,” Torres said of his parents.
Online marketing was never his parents’ strong suit, Torres said. Instead, they’ve always relied on word of mouth to attract costumers.
His parents added LED lights in May that line the restaurant’s signs in an effort to attract the eyes of people passing by, Torres said, which has helped.
Torres, who also owns Jr’s Red Hots across the street, said Arturo’s struggled when the coronavirus shutdown banned in-person dining in March. With sales dwindling, he cut the five full-time overnight servers and scaled back the businesses hours.
Takeout sales somewhat picked up in April and May, but they never fully recovered.
Currently, the restaurant employs eight workers during the week with one cashier and one chef. But starting Friday, the restaurant will welcome back some overnight staff and extend its hours from 8 a.m. until 5 a.m. once again to see if demand for late-night dining returns.
“We are trying to keep as many employees occupied as much as possible,” he said. “It has gotten a little better but nothing compared to how it used to be.”
Yesica, who has worked at Arturo’s for 10 years, is happy the restaurant will reopen for dine-in customers but said she is still nervous about catching the virus.
“I’m happy we are opening and that there will be more work… but the worry continues for me,” she said.
Torres said he was grateful for Dolojan’s fundraising efforts.
“It’s great, everything helps,” he said. “To see that one of our customers is coming to our help is amazing.”
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