By Tim McNicholas

CHICAGO (CBS) — Workers at Navy Pier would usually be preparing for a busy fall and winter, but instead, they are clearing the place out.

Navy Pier is closed now, and won’t be reopening until 2021. The nonprofit that runs the pier said the decision to shut down was necessary to help them stay afloat.

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CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas showed us how businesses are handling the situation, including one that has been able to stay open.

Navy Pier closed after Labor Day on Monday and was left deserted.

“It’s actually pretty surreal,” said Navy Pier chief executive officer Marilynn Gardner.

“It is quite odd,” said Tiny Tavern co-owner Mark Johnson.

A souvenir shop covered its goods to keep the dust off. Tiny Tavern turned off its gas and electricity on Tuesday.

“We’re probably only doing about 15 percent of our normal business, so it would be more of an impact to us negatively to stay open during this time,” Johnson said.

Navy Pier made the call to close after partially reopening for the summer and welcoming about 625,000 guests.

“We will have experienced a $20 million deficit in 2020 alone,” Gardner said.

Gardner said they usually welcome more than four million summer guests, and the temporary closure is necessary for Navy Pier to survive.

“So in order to ensure the pier’s future vitality and that of the 70 businesses that operate on the pier, it was critical that we close for the winter in order to help minimize the costs,” she said.

Business owners can keep their stuff behind, and they don’t have to pay rent. Gardner said her team will be working behind the scene on improvements and additions, and the plan remains to reopen in the spring.

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Offshore, the rooftop bar and restaurant, will stay open. How can one business have that privilege?

“Offshore is part of the hotel which is currently under construction,” Gardner said.

Gardner said the bar can stay open due to a contractual agreement.

“It was approved by the pier, yes,” she said.

Construction will continue and the management company, Maverick Hotels and Restaurants, said it still plans to reopen in November.

Navy Pier said winter guests will be limited to the hotel and parking garage, and Offshore guests may not roam the pier either.

The Offshore team said they are already brainstorming ways to keep people safe and warm in the winter, including the possibility of keeping small enclosures like the ones City Winery has used in past winters.

“We’re looking options very similar with our own little Offshore spin on it,” said Kathleen Jenkins, director of sales and marketing at Offshore.

One business that will not reopen at Navy Pier is Bubba Gump Shrimp. We have learned the location is going out of business.

A Navy Pier representative said the closure is unrelated to the pandemic. A new business will open in that high-profile spot at the end of the pier.


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Tim McNicholas