From left to right, Split-Rail chef/owner Zoe Schor, The Martin founder Whitney LaMora and Split-Rail bar manager Michelle Szot. Credit: Jessica Levin / Provided

WEST TOWN — Split Rail restaurant and its neighboring gallery space, The Martin, are closing early next month due to pandemic-related challenges, the owners announced this week.

The final brunch for Split Rail, 2500 W. Chicago Ave., is Sunday. The restaurant and the gallery will be open through Dec. 10, owners Zoe Schor and Whitney LaMora said. 

For the past six years, Schor and LaMora operated the spaces together as a couple, along with the popular lesbian bar, Dorothy, which will remain open.

“Our beloved cocktail lounge, Dorothy, continues on,” Split Rail’s Instagram post reads. “While we end the chapter that includes Split-Rail and The Martin, we are not leaving the hospitality industry and are looking forward to continuing to hold space in this neighborhood and in this bar that so many of you have gratefully embraced.” 

Split Rail is largely closing because it has been difficult to recover from its year-long closure during COVID-19 lockdowns, the owners wrote on Instagram. The restaurant and gallery reopened in summer 2021 after pandemic closures.

“It’s no secret that this industry — while wholly beautiful in the core of gathering, drinking and dining — is challenging,” the post reads. “We have faced those challenges head on in pivoting our menus, our payment structure and, most notably, all that was demanded of us during the quarantine period between March 2020 and June 2021.” 

The owners did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

Staff sets up the interior of Split-Rail in West Town ahead of their soft reopening on June 10, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

When the restaurant reopened, Split Rail offered a limited menu due to pandemic shortages and difficulties acquiring ingredients. To ensure their workers were taken care of, Schor and LaMora offered competitive wages and benefits as well as an automatic 20 percent charge to each bill to make sure servers were properly tipped, they said. 

“We believe our time has come to an end serving our neighbors in this way while feeling deep gratitude for everyone who shifted with the times right along with us,” Split Rail’s Instagram post reads. 

Split Rail offered upscale American fare such as salads, burgers and fried chicken, and it only served wine from vineyards owned by women or people of color. 

People often enjoyed a meal in the restaurant before visiting The Martin, a community-focused gallery space that LaMora curated with the goal of elevating young, queer local artists. 

“I wanted a safe, flexible and affordable storefront in which artists could thrive, be seen and understood and overall: create,” LaMora wrote on The Martin’s Instagram

The Martin. Credit: Provided

The Martin’s final exhibit opens Nov. 18. It’s about printmaking and features more than 20 artists from the Chicago area who use a variety of techniques. 

LaMora plans to continue curating exhibits in other spaces and looks forward to continuing to produce events at Dorothy, according to The Martin’s Instagram

People can stay updated on Schor and LaMora’s future ventures by following their hospitality collective, Drinking Policy, on social media. 

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