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Report: Restaurants Floundering Near Harpo Studios

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Harpo Studios

Harpo Studios on the city’s Near West Side. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Restaurateurs in the trendy Near West Side neighborhood that is home to Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo studios say they are struggling.

As WBBM Newsradio’s David Roe reports, the restaurateurs tell the Chicago Tribune when Winfrey’s Chicago-based show was taping at Harpo, 1058 W. Washington Blvd., they had big crowds for both breakfast and lunch, with crowds lining up as early as 5 a.m. for Oprah.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s David Roe reports


The Tribune reported this week that when “The Rosie Show,” starring Rosie O’Donnell, took over Winfrey’s digs at Harpo, everyone knew it was never going to replace the crowds that turned out before Winfrey’s show because it was taped in the afternoon and evening.

Now, “The Rosie Show” has also folded, there’s not a lot of hope among the restaurant owners that things are going to get much better. The lunch crowd at Le Peep, 1010 W. Washington Blvd. has been cut in half, and owner Michael Martin has had to lay off staff and now sometimes waits tables himself, the Tribune reported.

The 14-year-old La Sardine restaurant, 111 N. Carpenter St., has no lunch crowd at all without Oprah, the Tribune reported.

Earlier this month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel insisted that improvements on the Near West Side would continue despite the changes at Harpo.

“We just made a recent investment, as you know, in the Malcolm X community college becoming the school of health care,” Emanuel said on March 9. “We will continue to make other investments on the West Side as it relates to our culture and entertainment, and sustain that as part of our economic engine for the West Side, and there will be other announcements as the days come on in the weeks ahead that will accentuate that.”

Winfrey opened the studio in 1990, and used it to tape her talk show until she ended the run of her daily talk show last year.

When Harpo Studios opened, the infamous skid row a block south on Madison Street was hardly gone. But the studio received widespread credit for revitalizing the area.

Upon the announcement of O’Donnell’s departure, speculation mounted that Harpo Studios might be sold and turned into anything from a concert hall to a grocery store.

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