Chicago bars quiet before coronavirus prompted shutdowns | WBEZ
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A Quiet Last Call In Chicago Before Coronavirus Shutdown Of Bars And Restaurants

Despite health warnings, thousands of revelers crowded into Chicago area bars to celebrate St Patrick's festivities last weekend — many in Wrigleyville.

But on the eve of St Patrick’s Day and a statewide bar shutdown, Wrigleyville felt like a ghost town. Most bars closed before the new restrictions took effect, and those that remained open were nearly empty and issued last calls at 8:30 p.m.

“People are scared,” said Roadhouse 66 bartender Mike Pawlowski. “And even with the other [people in the hospitality industry] I don't expect them to come out because if I am going to be out of work for the next two weeks, where I have no income coming in, I am not going to go out on the last night. “

Rogers Park Social owner Erik Archambeault had considered staying open Monday night just before new rules aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 kicked in. But, in the end, he decided not to.

“Originally, I wanted to do it for my crew, because we don’t provide health insurance or have a ton of benefits that we are able to offer,” he said. “So I wanted to be open for them. But when we put something out there, everyone was, like, you should not have anyone in your business.”

So what might have been a night of “last call” debauchery ended in many places with a prudent wimper.

Most people out on Clark Street in Wrigleyville Monday night were walking dogs, jogging or heading to favorite restaurants.

“We are going to support local [for] one last night,” said Jeremy Levin who was headed to Tango Sur Argentine restaurant with a bottle of wine and his wife of one week. “We were going to Argentina for our honeymoon, but it got postponed so we are going for Argentine inspiration.”

At Sluggers, bartender Beatrice Seufrt waited on just a handful of people and noted that they were closing at 8 p.m., even earlier than the 9 p.m. mandate from the state.

At the Nisei Lounge, bartender Jay West said a few regulars were sore about the state-mandated shutdown of bars until at least April 1, “but then you get a couple of drinks in them — I feel like they are a little more OK with it.”

Still, West said he suspects a shutdown lasting several weeks is just the beginning, and much of the hospitality industry is likely to be out of work for longer.

So what will he do with his time off?

I’m a bartender,” he said. “I’m not doing a thing. I’m going to go love all my friends' dogs. I'm going to go pet dogs and show love.”

And almost like clockwork, his friend’s dog, Joey, came trotting up to the front of the bar and West gave him a nice pat on the head.

Monica Eng is a WBEZ reporter. Write to her at meng@wbez.org

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