Oak Park restaurant Live Cafe redesigns itself for coronavirus safety

OAK PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Live Cafe, a restaurant and event space in Oak Park which normally brings people together, has undergone a redesign to keep people apart during the coronavirus pandemic.

"To have to build walls and barriers is really the antithesis of how we exist," said Reesheda Graham Washington, owner Live Cafe. "We are going to put in plexiglass barriers all around the bar so that our baristas will be behind the glass at all times."

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Hush Development and Management is helping with the post-COVID redesign, which includes limiting contact, limiting seating, redirecting pickups with walls and adding virtual workshops and meetings to stay connected with customers.

"We have to be creative about how we maintain that community," said Washington.

"There is a need to create barriers, but there is also a need to continue to create community and re-imagine what community looks like," said Makesha Flournoy of Hush Development and Management.

Washington could have opened already, but said she wanted to do her part to keep all her customers and employees safe, especially those who are black and brown.

"All we knew is that we were closing, and that black and brown people were dying. That was very scary," she said. "I, personally, couldn't afford to live the rest of my life knowing that because I was trying to maintain my business, that I put someone in harm's way in a way that could cause them to lose their life."

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It was a costly decision, but one she made for her own conscience.

"It felt like a no-brainer, that we had to close, but at the same time it was devastating," she said.

With the redesign, Washington now feels comfortable reopening.
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