Local restaurants face a struggle as winter approaches

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Holden Green

Autre Monde Cafe & Spirits, 6727 Roosevelt Road

Coronavirus is still a strong threat to restaurants as outdoor seating slowly creeps away with the colder temperatures. Outdoor seating, a staple of Oak Park restaurants evident if one ever looked in last summer’s streets, is slowly getting folded up.

It appears businesses will struggle but saying that begs the question: how have businesses been doing so far during this pandemic?

During this pandemic, prominent establishments including Healy’s, Francesca’s Fiore, Barclay’s, and The Heritage have permanently closed.

These closures signal that local restaurants have indeed struggled. Nevertheless, further analysis is necessary to paint the whole picture.

Autremonde is a local restaurant on the border of Oak Park and Berwyn on Roosevelt Rd. They are known for their high-end Mediterranean fusion dishes and beautiful, secluded patio outback.

Autremonde’s owner, Christine Aranza, shared about her experiences over the past year.

“(O)ur revenue, especially with this second shutdown, is trending to be probably about a quarter of what it would be in a normal year”, she said.

The Stimulus money, a loan of $27,000 “was helpful” to Aranza. Despite this, she affirmed when asked if there had been layoffs or furloughs on the phone.

“The frustration is really with the inaction of government..shutting you down but not providing support.”

Aranza said they have done multiple fundraisers to raise funds during this time. She said they made 10,000 dollars from a wine raffle, as an example. “It’s still a challenge…so you just kinda have to get creative.”

However, Autremonde is currently not operating. Aranza said she felt it was unsafe for staff and that enough guests were not attending, so the reduced revenue does not support the costs of being open.

Nevertheless, Aranza does not brush off her community. The restaurant worked tooth and nail to keep employees until their temporary closing. She is incredibly thankful for the community as well, saying her restaurant is open solely on the “goodwill and generous support of our patrons…”

Mickeys Gyros and Ribs is another beloved local restaurant on the corner of Harlem and Erie. They are known for their American and Greek dishes with a 1950’s vibe permeating the establishment. One can expect to experience a diner-style interior with Frank Sinatra singing in the background.

Owner George Vergados said,

“We didn’t take anything [stimulus money]…we’ve been using rainy day money…but we’re still doing okay. There’s no such thing as I cant, there’s always I will.”

When Vergados discussed his business, he continually circled back to the role community plays in it. He not only constantly praised the community support they have received, but affirmed that he is always there for them as well.

“I’m here for the community, we do all the precautions…It’s not the same, but it’s gonna become the same later.

Vergados highlighted the Oak Park Moms, a local networking group, for their help in keeping operations going. On the phone, Vergados sad they were especially helpful in spreading the word when they opened back up.

To him, besides community support, carrying on also entails staying confident that “tomorrow’s gonna be better.”

Vergados’ and Aranza’s grit prove how despite challenges local restaurants are still up to the “plate” for service. May they have the best with operation and safety.

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