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Lakeview, Boystown, Wrigleyville

After Brutal Year, Wrigleyville Businesses Ready For Cubs Fans To Return: ‘There’s A Light At The End Of The Tunnel’

After a full year of baseball without fans, Wrigleyville businesses are looking forward to having foot traffic in the neighborhood as Wrigley Field opens at 20 percent capacity.

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WRIGLEYVILLE — Businesses throughout Wrigleyville are bracing for the thousands of fans who will be allowed back in Wrigley Field for the 2021 Cubs season, which owners say will help them recover from a year of closures and restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Smoke Daddy BBQ, 3636 N. Clark St., reopened Wednesday after being closed since October due to the lack of foot traffic in Wrigleyville during the pandemic. Manager David Bond said they decided to reopen after the announcement Monday fans will be welcomed back into Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field for baseball games.

Opening Day for the Cubs is April 1.

“We just opened our doors today in preparation for the big Opening Day,” Bond said. “We’re ramping up, trying to get ready, because we’re expecting that to be crazy awesome and huge.”

Wrigley Field will be allowed to welcome 8,274 fans at the start of the season. People will be required to wear face masks and there will be “comprehensive screening and sanitization procedures,” according to the Mayor’s Office. Groups of people will have to stay 6 feet apart.

To ensure safety, fans will be separated into seating zones that dictate the gate and time they enter, where they order concessions, which bathrooms they can use and where they leave, said Cubs spokesperson Julian Green.

The majority of the fans allowed in will be season-ticket holders, Green said, but more fans could be allowed into Wrigley Field if the city gets its COVID-19 outbreak under better control.

Wrigley rooftops will be open, but they’ll work under the same restrictions as bars and restaurants.

“When Wrigley Field shut down, we didn’t have any source of income without the fans,” Bond said. “To get that foot traffic back and have people coming back in here means the whole business to us.”

Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
Smoke Daddy BBQ, 3636 N. Clark St.

Josh Sklar, a business partner at Sports World, a one-stop shop for Chicago sports merchandise at 3555 N. Clark St., said the store has run the business mostly online since Wrigley Field closed last year.

“It’s been very tough,” he said. “There’s been no foot traffic, especially when the bars and restaurants are closed, so we’re hoping this season will get people back to having fun shopping again, coming by our store and supporting the bars and restaurants around here.”

Sklar said he hopes Wrigley Field operating at 20 percent capacity will signal “a start” to the neighborhood’s recovery from the pandemic.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re hoping as the season progresses, more fans will be allowed into the stadium,” Sklar said.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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