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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Table, Donkey & Stick Faces Costly Repairs And Temporary Closure After City Crews Damage Restaurant’s Water Line

The prolonged shutdown has cost the neighborhood restaurant thousands of dollars, owner Matt Sussman said. He hopes to reopen this month.

A person walks past Table Donkey & Stick, 2728 W. Armitage Ave., which is closed indefinitely after a city repair job left the restaurant without water.
Mina Bloom/Block Club Chicago
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LOGAN SQUARE — Table Donkey & Stick is closed indefinitely after city crews damaged a water line on the property, the owner said, leaving the Logan Square restaurant without running water as officials refuse to repair the damage.

The rustic restaurant, 2728 W. Armitage Ave., has been closed since Dec. 20, owner Matt Sussman said.

Department of Water Management crews were repairing a damaged sewer line on the property that day when they cut a nearby water line, accidentally turning off Table Donkey & Stick’s water service, Sussman said. He was forced to close.

“When I came in on Tuesday morning, we didn’t have water. We can’t open the restaurant without water,” Sussman said.

Crews quickly came back to fix the problem, but they weren’t able to restore the restaurant’s water service. The restaurant was still without water as of Monday. Sussman said special machinery is needed to access the water line because of the age of the building.

Sussman said he wasn’t able to get the city’s attention until Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) got involved, but he has since met with the the city and La Spata to work toward a solution.

City officials say some responsibility to fix the damage falls on the owner of the building, Capital Three Partners.

In an emailed statement, city spokeswoman Megan Vidis said the line was “fully repaired … up to the property line” the same day it was broken and any remaining issue is “on the property owner’s side and is their responsibility.”

City crews can’t mend the damage until the building’s plumbing system is brought up to code, but officials didn’t specify which codes the property owner violated. The building doesn’t have any recent code infractions listed in city records.

A Capital Three Partners official declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Table Donkey & Stick is struggling to stay afloat, Sussman said.

The city has offered to replace the water line using new trenchless technology, but Sussman said that solution won’t work. The city wouldn’t be able to start the project for another few weeks, and the business is already hemorrhaging money, he said.

Payroll aside, Sussman estimates the restaurant is losing at least $10,000 a week being closed. Now, Sussman is stuck scrambling to find repair services on his own, hoping insurance company will cover most of the work.

Sussman said his lease stipulates that the restaurant is responsible for plumbing issues in the building.

“It’s pretty frustrating that this is how it played out,” Sussman said of the city. “Obviously, the people on the crew weren’t trying to mess anything up, but it sucks that this how things work when something does get messed up and there’s not a lot of accountability, and it ends up shutting down a business that’s been there for 10 years for multiple weeks.”

Table Donkey & Stick opened in 2012, serving a seasonal menu inspired by the “eating and drinking traditions of the Alps,” according to its website.

The restaurant has become a neighborhood staple that also draws high praise from critics; it made Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand list last year.

The water line shutdown, which fell on the restaurant’s 10th anniversary, has upended operations, Sussman said.

Sussman said he’s covering payroll for his employees during the closure with the assumption their insurance company will eventually foot the bill. But employees are still without tips.

Sussman created a GoFundMe to fill the gap, writing that the shutdown left employees “in a tough spot at the worst possible time of year.”

“Unfortunately, we are still awaiting decisions from our insurance company to cover the business interruption, and in the meantime, sixteen people are out of work. 100% of your contribution will go directly to TDS staff,” he wrote.

As of Monday, the fundraiser had raised more than $7,000 toward its $15,000 goal.

The snafu also almost cost the restaurant all of its New Year’s Eve reservations, but the owner of nearby Mexican restaurant Dos let the Table Donkey & Stick crew run holiday service out of their space, which is just a few blocks away, Sussman said.

“They carved out half of the dining room, which was pretty much exactly the same size as Table Donkey & Stick,” Sussman said. “It was incredibly generous, neighborly and friendly of them to make that happen.”

Table Donkey & Stick’s water line troubles come after months of water main construction on Armitage Avenue that hampered access to the restaurant and other small businesses along the stretch.

Sussman thinks the current issue was sparked by the water main construction crew, but the city denies that.

“The issues at this address have nothing to do with the regular water main replacement that occurred last summer,” the Department of Water Management said in its statement.

Heading into the fourth week of closure, Sussman said he hopes to reopen the restaurant by Jan. 17, but that entirely depends on how quickly repairs can be done and if the insurance company approves the payout.

In the meantime, neighbors can support the restaurant by booking future reservations or planning a visit after Chicago Restaurant Week, which begins later this month, Sussman said.

“We’d love their support starting in February after the craziness is subsiding,” he said.

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