Restaurants on Lake Street between Oak Park Avenue and Euclid Avenue may get to keep their outdoor dining set-ups a bit longer than expected. While the village of Oak Park extended outdoor dining operations village-wide until Oct. 31, restaurants on that block were directed to remove outdoor tables and tents Sept. 8, so construction crews could begin sidewalk and streetscape construction. Work on this block would be the final leg of the all-year reconstruction of Lake Street from Harlem Avenue to Austin Blvd.
“I think it’s important that we as a village board revisit that decision and confirm whether we want to stay with the schedule as is,” Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb told Wednesday Journal.
Abu-Taleb has told those restaurants not to get hopes too high before the village board acts. Delaying construction would add costs to the major construction project at a time of limited village finances.
The direction to remove tables Sept. 8 prompted profound anxieties in restaurant owners and staff about the potentially crippling loss of revenue as eateries are still in the attempting to rebound from COVID-19 closures. Restaurants will not have to remove outdoor tents and seating on Tuesday until the village board comes to a decision Tuesday night.
“Nothing’s going to happen on Tuesday as far as moving the furniture or dismantling whatever needs to be dismantled,” said Abu-Taleb. “We’ll wait until we have discussion at the board table.”
Abu-Taleb owns Maya Del Sol, 144 S. Oak Park Ave. – only steps away from the block in question. His experience as a restaurant owner allows him to understand the needs of restaurants at this particular time. He also said he has recently talked to restaurant owners about the upcoming construction.
“I think it’s really helpful to have the experience because it does have an impact on one’s judgment,” he said.
He also said he has recently talked to Lake Street restaurant owners about the upcoming construction. The mayor said he has enjoyed seeing the community come out to support outdoor dining on Lake Street this summer.
“I always get a big smile when I walk by Lake Street and I see all these cafes outside and people getting out there, enjoying being outside and supporting these small businesses,” he said.
The decision to delay construction on that block of Lake Street may have financial implications for the village of Oak Park and its taxpayers – something the village board will also have to consider.
“I want those small businesses to understand not to have high expectations because this decision needs to be weighed against the cost to the taxpayers and the costs of doing it now versus waiting.”