CHICAGO (CBS) — Strategies have been renewed in Chicago to revive restaurants and bring back businesses that were hit by the pandemic – but is it going to work?
As CBS 2’s Jermont Terry reported, Uptown is the last to join a list of 16 communities to roll out permanent outdoor dining and community life. As the sun set on Argyle Street and a red ribbon was cut, Argyle Street west of Sheridan Road became the center stage for the North Side business district.
The Argyle Street outdoor event involves not just outdoor dining, but entertainment, festivity – and even dancing in the street to “Don’t Stop ‘Tim You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson.
Uptown now joins communities including Chatham, South Chicago, Little Village, and Humboldt Park in the city’s Chicago Alfresco Program, according to Rod Fojtik of Choose Chicago.
Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi said the effort is about economic development and bringing businesses back to life.
“This is a way of saying, you know what? We’re going to make this an investment for the long term,” Biagi said. “We’re going to double down all across the city and make sure communities and reflect what they need and want.”
More than $2 million in private funds were donated to help restaurants and businesses thrive again by having people walk the streets. They walked right into La Patisserie, 1050-52 W. Argyle St.
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“I was walking down the street and I saw the magic words – ‘bakery,’” a customer said.
The family-owned pastry shop has operated in Uptown since 1982. Owner Pete Yuen believes the city’s effort is a sweet deal.
“If they can have a seat, this is a plus,” Yuen said.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Yuen has gone right on kneading the dough every morning to keep the sweets stocked. But he would love to see more green dough roll in too.
“It’s a benefit to have people gathering in front of the store – making it welcoming,” he said.
Uptown was chosen because it is a diverse community. But there is another reason – the Argyle Street commercial strip in Uptown does not have any curbs. It was redesigned that way in 2016, which makes it ideal for outdoor street dining.
Chicago Alfresco is expected to last for up to three years.