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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Edgewater’s Burke’s Public House and Broadway Cellars Close For Winter, Hoping To Ride Out Coronavirus

The owners of Broadway Cellars and Burke's Public House say closing for winter is their best hope of keeping their businesses open in the future. "It just didn't make sense to stay open," one said.

Burke's Public House (l.) and Broadway Cellars have announced they will close through the winter.
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EDGEWATER — A pair of staple businesses on Broadway have gone dark for the winter and will look to reopen when the pandemic has subsided.

Burke’s Public House and Broadway Cellars recently announced they will temporarily close in an effort to wait out the coronavirus, which is putting a serious strain on restaurants and bars.

Burke’s, 5401 N. Broadway, and Broadway Cellars, 5900 N. Broadway, are among a growing number of Chicago establishments choosing to close this winter as a last-ditch effort to save their businesses in the long run.

Restaurants deciding to close have said doing so is more cost-effective than trying to sustain business only on takeout orders, as outdoor dining is no longer feasible with the chilly weather.

But not all restaurants are in a financial or logistical position to close down and wait out the pandemic. For Broadway Cellars, the generosity of neighbors has made it possible for the business to be dormant for the winter, its owner said.

Broadway Cellars

Broadway Cellars owners Tom and Geri Foley had weathered the first seven months of the pandemic when the second indoor dining ban came down in late October.

The safety measure came as patio season ended in Chicago, and the Foleys weren’t sure how much longer their business could hold on.

But then neighbors stepped up in a huge way.

A friend of the husband-and-wife duo launched a fundraiser for Broadway Cellars, and neighbors gave nearly $26,000.

The funds kept the Foleys from potentially going into personal debt to save their business. But as the chilly weather slowdown in business hit, the Foleys knew the funds wouldn’t be enough to survive the winter, Foley said.

Instead, Broadway Cellars will close indefinitely. The tentative plan is to reopen when indoor dining capacity is allowed at 25 percent or more, or if more stimulus money is released. Either scenario likely won’t happen until early next year, Tom Foley said.

“We looked at the numbers and realized all the money that had been donated would be gone by the middle of December,” he said. “If we hold onto the rest [of the donated funds] and cut everything else out, we would have enough money to start up in the spring.

“But if we want to come back, we’ve got to go now.”

Thanksgiving was Broadway Cellars’ last day of service for the time being.

The Foleys also used the donated funds to pay a month’s rent plus a week of work for each of its 16 staffers, Foley said.

Foley said he and his wife wanted to do a good thing for the staff during a difficult time.

“It was very emotional,” he said of having to tell his staff of the temporary closure. “It’s a hard thing to do right around the holidays.”

Temporarily closing is the prudent decision, even if it is difficult, Foley said. And it would not be possible without the generosity of neighbors.

“The fundraiser was such a beautiful thing and helped so much,” he said.

Burke’s Public House

For Brendan Costello, owner of Burke’s Public House five blocks south, it wasn’t feasible to try to last on takeout alone.

Burke’s last day of service was Nov. 21. Earlier this year, the bar-restaurant was buoyed by its sizable cafe seating along Balmoral Avenue. But with winter coming, that part of the business could no longer be relied upon.

“It just didn’t make sense to stay open,” Costello said. “We decided to hunker down for the winter.”

Costello’s plan is to reopen in the spring, when the pandemic has hopefully subsided and Chicagoans are ready to celebrate en masse. Costello opened Burke’s in 2011.

“We have an awesome customer base,” Costello said. “We look forward to the spring and seeing everyone back here.”

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