Chicago COVID-19 restrictions mean restaurants, bars, theaters must pay bills, renew licenses without income

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Monday, June 8, 2020
Chicago restaurants, bars struggle to pay bills, renew licenses without income
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Yak-Zies restaurant and bar in Wrigleyville has been closed since mid-March but they still have to pay bills and for license renewals.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The barstools are empty. The liquor bottles are collecting dust. Yak-Zies restaurants and bar in Wrigleyville has been closed since mid-March, but the bills keep coming.

Owner Joe Spagnoli got a water bill from the city for about $1,400 covering the time from mid-March through May despite the fact he has used virtually no water other than filling a few buckets for deep cleaning.

"After looking at it closer, not the backside of the bill, I realized this is just an estimated bill and we can't owe that much for water," said Spagnoli.

The water is just one of many bills for Yak-Zies and most other Chicago businesses. Spagnoli also has a renewal fee of about $8,000 due on his liquor license due in August despite having no liquor sales since early March.

And with no baseball, there is no draw to bring fans to Wrigleyville in the first place.

The owner of the nearby Metro music theater and several other bars in the neighborhood said he also has all those bills due with no income. He will likely not be able to reopen for concerts until Phase 4, which could be months from now.

"I just think they don't see how much it's really impacting everybody, but these are the realities when these bills come in the mail," said Spagnoli.

At Standing Room Only, a small restaurant in the Loop, they are dealing with major damage from the riots and looting a week ago. They had been open for pickup and delivery, but that was only about 10 percent of their normal business.

While some suburban cities like Burr Ridge have put up tents in parking lots for restaurants to expand seating, in Chicago you need a cafe license to put tables on the sidewalk.

"It's incongruent. It's like bad joke that they want us to pay the permit fee," said Standing Room Only owner Tom Bezanes.

Bezanes is still trying to reach his insurance company in the hopes of reopening later this summer. He says after 27 years in business, he doesn't want to see the place end like this.