Chicago street closures for more outside dining expand to Chinatown, 4 more streets this weekend

Thursday, June 25, 2020
Chinatown hopes weekend street closures bring visitors, diners back
In the already pedestrian-friendly China Town Square, lined with shops, bakeries and restaurants, there is hope and excitement.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Five more streets will close around Chicago this weekend to allow more seating for outdoor dining, an expansion of the city's program started on the North Side earlier in June.

The five new streets are:

- Balmoral Street on both sides of North Clark in Andersonville

- Chinatown Square, adjacent to Archer Avenue between Wentworth and Princeton

- Taylor Street between Loomis to Ashland in the Near West Side

- Oliphant Avenue from Northwest Highway to the first alley to the north in Edison Park

- 75th Street from Indiana to Calumet in Greater Grand Crossing

The streets will also be open to pedestrian and bike traffic to allow residents to space out even more.

In Lakeview, Broadway between Diversey and Belmont was one of the first pilot locations.

In the already pedestrian-friendly Chinatown Square, lined with shops, bakeries and restaurants, there is hope and excitement.

"More people will come down, and then can help with the economy and help with the businesses," said Mabel Moy, president of the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

"Hopefully this will be a scenario where we'll come charging back and, you know, not be hurting so bad at the end of the summer," said Anthony Chin, Chinatown Square Association.

Even before the stay-at-home order Chinatown businesses were hurting, in part because of anti-Asian sentiment related to COVID-19.

"It was just a lot of people pointing fingers," Chin said. "Stay away from Chinatown. There's that virus."

That perception has been reinforced by anti-Asian rhetoric from President Donald Trump, who at a recent appearance referred to COVID-19 as "kung flu."

"It's been tough to get folks to come to Chinatown, right, and for folks to see past some of the stigma and some of the unfortunate racist scapegoating that's going on around the pandemic," said Andy Kang, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice. "So my hope is that people would show that support by coming here and helping us get back to some semblance of normal."

Some Chinatown business owners say revenue is down 90% since the pandemic. There's hope this weekend will mark an economic renaissance.

The Illinois Restaurant Association says restaurants sales have been down by 80% during the pandemic.

Earlier this month, City Council passed an ordinance that temporarily removes regulatory burdens for sidewalk cafe permits and ensures establishments can operate as quickly and safely as possible.

So far, the City has approved over 1,000 sidewalk café permits and will be sending refunds for 75% of the permit fee to over 500 business that already paid for the sidewalk café permit in full.