CHICAGO (CBS) — A stretch of Broadway was shut down and the street transformed into outdoor dining for part of last summer to help struggling restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, a grant will help this neighborhood, and 14 others, do something similar.
The goal is to jump start businesses. But there’s still one big hurdle: Getting workers to come back.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Storms Headed Our Way After Midnight; Damaging Winds And Heavy Rain Possible
“Let’s not kid ourselves,” said Maureen Martino, executive director of the East Lakeview Chamber of Commerce. “A lot of these businesses still have to make up for a lot of lost revenue.”
But Martino says being one of 15 winners of the city’s Chicago Alfresco grant could end up being a big business boost. In this neigbhorhood’s case, helping it enhance the overall outdoor dining and alfresco experience–when two blocks of North Broadway are again shut down two weekends a month this summer.
Martino says East Lakeview’s chamber will get a $50,000 grant, which will be used for lighting, planters, security and the like. A total of 14 other neighborhood organizations all around the city also won similar grants.READ MORE: Years After Promise Of $100,000 From State And Photo-Op Prop Check, AMVETS Post 14 In Clinton, Illinois Has Not Seen A Dime
“Community support was absolutely key,” said Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi. Her department helped pick the grant recipients and will oversee the closing of additional streets.
“We’re absolutely focused on equity and make sure everybody gets what they need from this program,” said Biagi
Economic development and bringing businesses back to life – post pandemic – are main goals. But some, like Martino, worry that this still won’t be enough. Hiring workers, from dishwashers to service staff, has been a challenge.
“The restaurants are still like even if we’re at 100 percent soon, will they still be able to operate.”MORE NEWS: Some Residents Say A Bears Move To Arlington Heights Would Benefit Community, Others Say It Would Bring Unwelcome Traffic And Crowds
Commissioner Biagi says the entire Chicago Alfresco is privately funded, all $2.5 million.