After four years, Wild Onion Tied House, 1111 South Blvd., has closed its doors permanently — earlier than expected. The restaurant announced in an Oct. 10 Facebook post that its last day of service would be Halloween. Two days later the restaurant shuttered.
In a Facebook post, dated 11:08 a.m., Oct. 12, Wild Onion shared that the restaurant had to close for repairs after sustaining damage from the previous night’s storm but would reopen in a few days. Hopes of a quick reopening were dashed later that day, when Wild Onion returned to Facebook, posting at 7:47 p.m., that the temporary shutdown was, in fact, permanent.
“We anticipated remaining open until the end of the month to say goodbye and have one last beer with you all, but the cost and energy to return to operation is far too great for this short period of time,” the second Oct. 12 post reads. “We’re incredibly sorry for expediting this closure.”
Wild Onion stated within that same post that the storm damage was “more than significant.” Sewer back up filled the restaurant, according to the 7:47 p.m., Oct. 12 post, and a power outage prevented refrigeration, causing food to spoil, leading the restaurant to make the “unfortunate decision” not to return as planned till Halloween.
While the restaurant’s last two posts to Facebook gave no mention of the village of Oak Park, they came on the heels of unfavorable allegations Wild Onion levied at the municipality’s staff and elected officials in its Oct. 10 post to the social media platform.
“To the municipal leaders of Oak Park, we would suggest you take a hard look at how you could improve your support of the local businesses that provide the all-important tax revenue for your coffers,” Wild Onion wrote.
The post added that at no point in its relationship with the village did Wild Onion ever feel it had the government’s support and blasted the village for its efforts to bolster the business community through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When the pandemic hit, that lack of support translated into a complete failure of village management,” Wild Onion said. “Dirty streets, a planter full of weeds, homeless people begging on our patio, mixed messaging from the health department about our operations — these all have created an almost dystopian feel to our particular location.”
Wednesday Journal reached out to Interim Village Manager Lisa Shelley for comment, as well as representatives from Wild Onion, which has another location in Lake Barrington.
Village President Vicki Scaman told Wednesday Journal that she was saddened over the restaurant’s closure and the allegations it laid at the feet of the village.
“I’m always saddened to hear this and am always up to the challenge of increasing communications so that we [are] more responsive to the needs of the small business community,” she said.
Scaman noted that the tavern had encountered plenty of difficulties during its time in Oak Park.
“Wild Onion has had every obstacle thrown at them, from construction inside the building and outside the building,” she said. “They were newer to the community and just about to establish their roots, and then the pandemic hit.”
As someone with experience running a restaurant, the Scaman added that she understood how hard it can be. As for the restaurant’s claims against the village, she did not definitively give her support to either side.
“No matter what the situation, I think there’s always some truth, but there are limitations to what government can do to make everybody whole,” she said.
Scaman added that Wild Onion leadership did not attempt to contact her directly to discuss its situation with the village and was a “little disappointed” that they had not.
“This current village board is very aligned with wanting to be responsive, collaborative and communicative so we can close our gaps in resources,” she said. “Please don’t hesitate to reach out.”
The president credited the Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce for its advocacy of local businesses and restaurants. Becoming a more resilient community, according to Scaman, requires working together.
For elected officials and staff alike, she believes there is always room for improvement when it comes to working with the public.
“We should take the stance of listening so that we can be empathetic and hold ourselves accountable to be better,” she said.