CHICAGO (CBS) — The Wise Owl in the West Loop was the first restaurant the city shut down for COVID-19 violations, and that is not a title you want to hold.
Now, the Wise Owl Drinkery & Cookhouse at 324 S. Racine Ave. is considering rebranding or even changing its business model to bounce back. In the meantime, they insist to CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas they have learned from their past.
Wise Owl is back in business, with touchless menus and temperature checks when people walk in.
“We strictly monitor the people that can be out here at time,” said Joseph Sheahan, who handles marketing there.
But right now, the Wise Owl often sits in an empty nest, Sheahan said.
When asked what business has been like, Sheahan said, “It’s been pretty rough.”
The West Loop bar and restaurant recently professed on Facebook, “We want to earn your trust.”
The city shut them down in mid-July for “egregiously and blatantly disregarding” COVID-19 requirements. The city said they violated capacity limits, and that was not all.
“Majority of it was people not wearing masks and people not social distancing,” Sheahan said.
Sheahan said the bar came up with a safety plan so the city would let them reopen.
“If they forget a mask, we have masks here,” he said. “Way more than six feet in between our tables.”
They’re also ready to enforce capacity limits, but with a lack of customers, that is not an issue.
McNicholas: “If you do get to the point where there’s more people coming in here what can you say to reassure people that this time it will be different?”
Sheahan: “We know we’re not get many more chances, so we are doing everything we can to make sure we are at the leading standard of what bars and restaurants should be doing in this city.”
Still, Wise Owl might need even more changes to fly again. Even a new name is possible.
“We are deeply looking at alternatives, more of a traditional restaurant,” Sheahan said. “What we can do to revive this place? Potentially rebrand; bringing in new partners.”
Paul Morrison said he has been brought in to do some consulting for the bar and restaurant. He is a former executive chef for Miller’s Pub in the Loop.
“I don’t want to give away too much,” Morrison said. “I just know the place deep down has some good bones to it; has a good feel. So there will be some exciting things happening here in the future.”
Whether Morrison could take on a longer-term role or partnership at Wise Owl remains to be seen.
Sheahan also said one of the co-owners was the manager at the time of the violations, and he has now been removed from his role managing Wise Owl.