CHICAGO (CBS) — With outdoor dining the only way to make a buck, restaurants are struggling.
As CBS 2’s Tara Molina learned Wednesday, help is on the way for some restaurants in the form of winterization grants. But those outdoor structures can’t just pop up overnight.
One owner is hoping to hang on long enough turn that grant money into something good.
Mom’s Place, at 650 N. Dearborn St. in River North, is paying about $20,000 a month just to keep business going. And they’re not making a dime.
The hope now is that an outdoor structure they plan to set up will make the difference.
Mom’s Place has played the waiting game. But with no takeout business and no outdoor setup, they’re hanging on by a very expensive thread.
“I don’t see it getting better right now,” said owner Ron Prokaski.
Prokaski said they have lost too much money to invest more in an outdoor dining setup. But they’re doing it anyway – contributing $5,000 to the $10,000 Winterization Grant money they just received to get a winter-friendly outdoor seating structure set up.
“We can get the structure put up and make a run at it, and try to get some business going,” Prokaski said.
Heated Eats: COVID-19 Cold-Weather Outdoor Dining In Chicago
He said the grant money allows them to roll the dice. But it won’t just happen in a snap.
Mom’s Place will still have to pay for city permits, and have those permits approved, before the structure is built.
“In the meantime, that’s two more months without business coming in,” Prokaski said. “It’s really frustrating.”
And what makes a rule-follower like Prokaski even more frustrated is that full outdoor structures – no different than indoor dining – are going up across the city at a time when he says a limited indoor capacity would make all the difference for Mom’s Place and others that can’t afford to wait.
“If we had normal hours at 25 percent? We could do OK,” he said. “We could keep the lights on and the doors open and survive.”
In the best-case scenario, Prokaski said they will have the outdoor space up and running sometime in March. If indoor dining is banned until then, they will have to hold on with no income.
The Restaurant Strong Winterization Grants created through a partnership with The Greg Hill Foundation and Grubhub. For more on the winners of the grants – in Chicago as well as in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston – click here.
Also From CBS Chicago: