NATO Summit: Bad Business for Some South Loop Owners

Video: See how one South Loop business reacted when a skirmish between police
and protesters broke out in front of the business. (1 minute, 7 second mark) 
(Video by Meredith Zhang and Ivy Liu) 

NATO logoBy Ivy Liu and Meredith Zhang
The Red Line Project

Posted: Monday, May 21, 2012

Many South Loop businesses said Sunday that they  have suffered at least a  50 to 75 percent decrease in revenue because of traffic restrictions during the NATO summit. 

Riley Crane, inventory manager of Warehouse Liquor at 634 S. Wabash Ave., said business has been “terribly” affected by NATO. It has dropped at least 90 percent since Friday, he said, which has cost them “many thousands of dollars.”

During the NATO summit, some South Loop streets are blocked. There is an increased amount of police officers, Secret Service and Illinois National Guard on staff. Crain said it would be inconvenient for people to go out and they may be “scared by the police presence.”

“No one feels comfortable to walk around,” Crane said, “and we are not being compensated at all.”

Even if there are fewer customers and the potential protestor violence exists, Crane said Warehouse will remain open during the summit with regular hours. For Crane, closing the store to avoid the threats is not their “philosophy.”

“We feel safe. I don’t think there’s going to be a riot," he said. "If they do, we got medal gates here. We will be fine. We still have to open for people who do come by.”

The Harold’s Chicken Shack is next door to Crane’s liquor store. General Manager Mahde Ashkar said the restaurant has had a 75 percent revenue loss since Thursday, which is the biggest loss of business for the restaurant in the past 10 years.

“The only time [of the loss of business] that could be compared to this is the 9/11. But it lasted longer,” Ashkar said, “NATO is here only for two days.”

Ashkar has also shortened the restaurant’s opening hours during the NATO summit. It usually opens from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the weekends. It closed at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Some South Loop businesses count on locals and students as their major customers. During NATO, universities have closed their Loop campuses for safety and traffic congestion reasons.

And according to business owners, many local people stay away from the downtown area to avoid traffic. Businesses slow down since the major revenue sources are cut down.

Photo by Ivy Liu

Riley Crane, inventory manager of Warehouse Liquor, talks
about the loss of revenue during the NATO summit. (Photo by Ivy Liu)

Michael Lampariello, owner of Jimmy Green’s at 825 S. State St., said many locals come to their place for sports games and drinks. They have had a drop of 70 percent of business.

Also, Jimmy Green’s is not open for during the NATO weekends for the sake of safety issues for employees.

“We are closing because we don’t want our employees get hurt,” Lampariello said, “They’re driving in, getting here and getting home. It will be a lot of troubles on the way.”

Unlike Jimmy Green’s, the Wing Stop at 12 E. Harrison St. will remain open. Owner Tom Schaffer said the restaurant “will get through it” since the NATO lasts just a couple of days.

“Some business is better than no business,” Schaffer said.

Students are the major customers of Wing Stop. There are fewer students around since the campus is closed and summer break is close as well. Wing Stop’s business has dropped at least 50 percent, Shcaffer said.

From a business standpoint, both Schaffer and Lampariello did not support the NATO summit being held in Chicago.

“They [the NATO] crashed the city financially, really,” Lampariello said.

To ensure safety, many businesses on State Street have extra security guards on hand in front of the stores. Some businesses may have extra staff at NATO weekends. According to Omar Hernandez, supervisor of CVS Pharmacy at State and Congress, three managers will be on duty, while it used to be only one manager.

Although many businesses are suffering from a loss, some are normal, or even increasing. Howie Fletchersnatch, cashier at Jimmy John’s at 725 S. State St., said they made “about the same” as they normally do at the normal days.

Fletchersnatch said they “fed many cops” and even some protesters became their new customers.

“The other day five or six [protestors were] coming in and were totally like opposite what they were protesting,” Fletchersnatch said. “They bought a ‘corporation’ sandwich.”

Tom Kinstle, cashier at Al’s Beef at 28 E. Jackson Blvd, said they were busier than expected. Sunday's protest parade marched right by Al's.

“We choose to open because my boss wanted to capitalize on all the activities going on, all the protestors,” Kinstle said.

Even if they are facing potential threat from protesters, Kinstle still thought NATO is a “good thing” for Chicago.

“It’s going to push Chicago in a more global view," he said. "More people around the world are gonna know about Chicago. So it will help the tourism in a long run.” 

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