CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago’s Black Restaurant Week kicks off this week.
It was founded to increase visibility of Black-owned businesses during Black History Month. On Monday, CBS 2’s’ Tara Molina sat down with two lifelong friends turned business owners who are taking part.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: A Sunny Start
Chicago’s sixth Black Restaurant Week will go on for two weeks this year to help owners struggling amidst the pandemic. It is a struggle that’s behind a call Monday for increased capacity indoors by the weekend.
Chicago restaurants on Monday were requesting 50 percent capacity or a 50-person maximum by Valentine’s Day, with restaurants still at a 25-person cap amid COVID-19 concerns.
Leaders said they have already lost the other holiday sales they depend on.
But despite all of the challenges they’ve faced this year, Laricia Chandler and Andrew Bonsu said they have found a way to thrive.
You can get fan favorites vegan style, or jerk chicken and burgers, from two kitchens under one roof that are operating in Orland Park. Chandler and Bonsu – best friends of 20 years – just brought their restaurants together for a hybrid operation there.
“I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else,” said Bonsu, co-owner of Phlavz.
They are now featured in Chicago’s Black Restaurant Week, highlighting Black-owned business during Black History Month.
“We both came together,” Bonsu said. “It shows the unity in the community.”
Both of their restaurants are running specials in-person and online.READ MORE: Hegewisch Woman Furious After Someone Pepper-Sprayed Her Dogs Through The Fence
“I’m just glad people are really supporting Black restaurants the way that they should be,” said Chandler, owner of Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat.
And while the spirit of Black Restaurant Week – collaboration and increased visibility – is something Bonsu and Chandler know all too well, Molina asked how they were able to open a new location in the middle of the pandemic when we’re told at least 20 percent of Chicago restaurants are expected to go out of business.
They say they’ve beat the odds with a surge in business since May.
“Right now, we have people out in the cold waiting to get in,” Chandler said.
And they’ve done it with no grants or loans – just lines of customers willing to brave subzero temperatures.
“You see all the big major restaurants are shutting down, but we are expanding and opening more to feed people good food,” Bonsu said.
Still, they’re hoping the Chicago Restaurant Coalition is successful in their push for increased capacity ahead of the weekend – taking limits from 25 to 50 inside.
They said it would make a real difference in their original locations.
“A high capacity would be a major blessing,” Chandler said.MORE NEWS: Chauncey Spencer II Takes To The Road With Stories Of African Americans In Flight, Including A Stop In Chicago
Black Restaurant Week runs through Feb. 21. You can find a list of the more than 80 restaurants participating at this link.