ROGERS PARK — One of Rogers Park’s most popular date night spots has closed its doors permanently, with its owner saying the coronavirus pandemic has made it too difficult to stay in business.
Twisted Tapas, 1146 W. Pratt Blvd., closed Sunday after seven years in the neighborhood. Owner Bob Parilla said a slowdown in business caused by the pandemic — plus a looming liquor license payment — hastened the restaurant’s closing.
“COVID has destroyed this industry and we are another casualty,” the business’ management wrote on Facebook.
After suffering through some slow months, a $6,000 liquor license fee due in a few weeks ended up being the final straw, Parilla said. The restaurateur called the city and learned there was no program to delay the payment or set up a payment plan.
“I’d be kicking myself if I paid that $6,000 and folded a month or two later,” he said.
Twisted Tapas opened in October 2013 as an off-shoot of Twist, a Lakeview eatery Parilla co-owned. The restaurant specialized in creative takes on the traditional Spanish small plates fare known as tapas, offering items like jalapeño gnocchi and mushroom corn cakes.
Over the years, Twisted Tapas became a neighborhood favorite. But the coronavirus pandemic changed everything, Parilla said.
Located on a busy corner between Sheridan Road and Loyola Beach, there was no space for outdoor seating.
To-go orders were never a big part of Twisted Tapas’ business, but customers rallied to support the restaurant once it reopened following the citywide stay-at-home order in the spring, Parilla said.
But in the months since, Twisted Tapas went from filling more than 15 to-go orders a night to one or two, he said.
“When we reopened, it was massive,” Parilla said of the to-go business. “It started waning.”
Twisted Tapas announced its closure on Sept. 18, saying the business would hold a final service on Sunday.
Customers flooded the business’ Facebook page with condolences and well wishes, and the final week of service was fully booked with reservations, said general manager Jill Hollister.
“The getting together, the goodbyes, the tears,” Hollister said. “People were great.”
Parilla said he was glad to have the time to say goodbye to his customers, but noted even a fraction of the level of business he received in his last weeks could have sustained him through the pandemic.
“It was bittersweet,” he said. “It was nice all the regulars came in and we could say goodbye. On the flip side, it’s like, ‘Where were you?’ “
After years in the restaurant industry with Twisted Tapas and its predecessor Twist, Parilla said he has no plans to open a new eatery anytime soon. He might try his hand at real estate instead, he said.
“The restaurant business is not where I want to be in the next one or two or three years,” Parilla said. “There’s way too much risk.”
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.