With COVID stimulus bill stalled, Chicago businesses help each other, their communities

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With the federal COVID-19 relief package stalled, and the virus keeping people at home, many local businesses are worried about making ends meet in the New Year. And even as they worry, some are still looking to help those even more vulnerable.

A simple home-cooked, traditional meal is so hard to come by for so many this year.

"There was such a need out there for people who were struggling, who lost their incomes, couldn't afford food," said Robert Magiet, owner of Takorea Cocina in West Town.

Magiet is one of the lucky ones whose restaurant is still making a little money.

"A few weeks before Thanksgiving it hit me: let's put together a Thanksgiving meal plan. And it took off," he said.

A daily demand for food and enough good will from the community and fellow restauranteurs has kept a few employees cranking out 20 to 50 hot meals a day. But it's not enough to make up for the hit restaurant workers are struggling through.

"This is where companies give huge tips that are dispersed amongst our staff. That's all gone. This is the first time in how many years that all the people who rely on holiday tips and business... it's just all gone," Magiet said.

Web Pub Bucktown's former cocktail sipping space is now a seasonal pop up market.

"It's been a constant rotation of vendors so we can help the community, help out our local businesses, help out us," said owner Eric Johnson.

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Sara Gronowski, laid off from her longtime bartending job, has barely been able to keep her homemade popcorn on the shelves.

"I was sitting at home about a week before Thanksgiving thinking, 'You know what, I'm just going to throw it out there,'" she recalled.

It's a way to help close the unemployment income gap that could soon evaporate, and a means to keep local businesses afloat without government relief.

"This bar has been here since 1947 and there's no way I'm going to be the man that closes the doors. So you have to do what you can do," Johnson said.
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