UPTOWN — Sister restaurants Big Chicks and Tweet have temporarily closed after a customer who was feeling unwell came to the bar to celebrate their birthday last week, then learned the next day they’d tested positive for coronavirus, according to the owner.
Big Chicks and Tweet closed Friday. On Thursday, a regular came to Big Chicks patio for his birthday — after feeling symptoms and getting a coronavirus test earlier that week, business owner Michelle Fire said. Like all Big Chicks customers, he was given a temperature check but passed, she said.
The customer got the test results back Friday, showing he was positive for COVID-19. He called Big Chicks on Friday to alert management about his positive test, Fire said, and said he hadn’t been feeling well when he visited the restaurant.
“They wanted to celebrate their birthday,” Fire said. “This is who we’re dealing with. They’re people who are not bad people. They want to live their life, and they make bad decisions.
“It’s a sad, sad thing,” she said.
To keep staff and customers safe, Fire decided to temporarily close Big Chicks, 5024 N. Sheridan Road, and neighboring Tweet, 5020 N. Sheridan Road, likely until Monday.
The restaurants are expected to reopen after all staff members receive two negative coronavirus tests, Fire said. Employees all tested negative Monday, and they will be tested again 48 hours after their initial test, she said.
Both spaces will be deep cleaned before reopening.
The likely 10-day closure will cost the two restaurants — and their staff — dearly, just as a second wave of coronavirus cases throughout the city threatens to further roll back business opening guidelines.
Fire said she is covering her staff’s wages for the week but she can’t do that if the closure must continue into next week. Either way, employees are missing out on tips.
“It’s the right thing to do, but it’s a hit,” Fire said. “My poor staff.”
Big Chicks and Tweet are the latest Chicago restaurants that have had to temporarily close because of coronavirus exposure.
Last week, four Logan Square restaurants shuttered temporarily due to coronavirus exposure.
Logan Square’s Longman & Eagle, Wicker Park’s Big Star, River North’s Recess, Lincoln Park’s Galit and an Alinea pop-up in West Loop all have closed doors after employees tested positive for coronavirus.
City regulations do not require a restaurant to shut down after a COVID-19 exposure, however. West Town restaurant Etta did not close after multiple staffers contracted the illness.
Big Chicks and Tweet have patio service and have opened limited indoor seating during the pandemic, according to their websites.
The restaurants have implemented broad safety measures, including every staff member wearing protective equipment that includes wrap-around goggles, Fire said.
But that can’t account for bad behavior from customers.
As to what she’d say to the regular who spurred the temporary closure of her businesses, Fire said they should stay away until coronavirus is eradicated.
“Come back when there’s a vaccine,” Fire said. “I appreciate he told us. It’s not a mea culpa.”
Big Chicks has been a staple Uptown business and iconic LGBTQ hangout since 1986. Fire opened Tweet in 2003, operating a breakfast and lunch service to Big Chick’s dinner and bar business.
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