Palace Grill GoFundMe goal reached in just over 24 hours after devastating fire

Karen Jordan Image
Wednesday, February 14, 2024
Palace Grill GoFundMe goal reached in just over 24 hours after fire
A Palace Grill restaurant customer is holding an online fundraiser to help the restaurant damaged by a fire.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A longtime customer of Palace Grill started a GoFundMe to help the staff and owner.

The beloved diner caught fire last Thursday night.

No one was hurt, but it caused extensive damage and left the staff without jobs. The Palace Grill has been in business for 86 years.

RELATED: Iconic Palace Grill restaurant near United Center badly damaged by fire

The diner was often frequented by first responders, politicians and Blackhawks players. They came for more than the food. They came for the warmth and kindness showed to people of all walks of life.

The goal of the GoFundMe campaign, started by Katrina Vlasich, was to raise $15,000 to help fix the damage. It reached it in just over 24 hours.

The damage has been devastating for owner George Lemperis.

"When I got here, I started bawling," Lemperis said. "Some guy stopped me, and he says, 'sir, you don't remember me. Years ago, I was down and out, and you fed me.' He says, 'here's $5. I would like to repay my debt to you.'"

Lemperis now finds himself on the receiving end of an outpouring of support.

"He is the heart and soul of this place, and it's a part of him," Vlasich said.

Vlasich is a big fan of the Blackhawks, and came to know Lemperis over the years by stopping in for meals before the games.

She told him about the idea, and he was reluctant at first.

"I basically said, 'you're not asking for it. People are asking to do it for you. People are looking for a vehicle to support you, so let them,'" Vlasich said.

Lemperis plans to rebuild, but said it could take four to six months.

"Whatever money I get from the GoFundMe page will directly go to my employees," he said.

For now, Lemperis said he's thankful he has the support of so many.