By Jim Williams

CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s a staggering prediction: 10,000 restaurants across the country could close in the next three weeks.

That warning came from the National Restaurant Association.

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CBS 2’s Jim Williams spoke to two restaurant owners in Chicago’s Chatham community struggling to hang on.

One restaurant owner said they’re taking out loans, even cashing in retirement accounts, but running of out of time.

Three years ago, when Derrick Rowe started his restaurant Mabe’s Deli, named after his grandmother, he wanted an alternative to the fast food restaurants that dot Chicago’s South Side.

“We have soups. We have salads. We have real fruit smoothies,” Rowe said. “And people in the neighborhood has really come to like it and enjoy it.”

Down the street on East 75th, Connie Simms-Kincaid opened her restaurant 5 Loaves Eatery 17 years ago, determined to make it as warm and welcoming as the family dining room.

“You feel that love and you feel just the care, you know,” Simms-Kincaid said. “And also it’s a good meal to eat.”

Mabes Deli and 5 Loaves Eatery are more than restaurants in Chatham. They’re community staples, creating fellowship and economic vitality in an area that needs every single business.

But today…

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“It just feels like a nightmare that we just can’t seem to wake up from,” Simms-Kincaid said.

The nightmare of COVID and the pandemic indoor dining shutdowns. The National Restaurant Association warns 10,000 American restaurants could close in three weeks unless Congress passes a relief package. That’s on top of 110,000 restaurants that have already closed this year.

“I’ve taken out two loans. And that has stayed with me for a couple of months and then I just cashed in two of my retirement accounts to have more revenue to carry me on,” Rowe said. “If we don’t see change here, I don’t know what’s gonna happen.”

Connie Sims-Kincaid is on all the food delivery apps.

“I’m trying to pivot, jump through hoops, jump through fire,” she said. “I’m trying to do everything that I possibly can because I know that businesses like mine are needed, especially in these types of neighborhoods.”

More than restaurants… an uncertain future.

“I’m not looking for a handout. I want to keep going. And I can’t keep going at this pace,” Rowe said, who added he may have to shut down in two to three months.

The Illinois Restaurant Association said it does not have exact breakdowns of data for Illinois. At present, conservative estimates indicate that 20%t of restaurants throughout the state of Illinois (nearly 25,500) will close permanently.

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