Owner Will Duncan in 2020, during Fitzgeralds Stay-at-Home concert series in Berwyn. | Alex rogals/Staff Photographer

On Nov. 4, FitzGeralds, 6615 Roosevelt Rd. in Berwyn, announced the decision to pause on-premises operations due to “more than one breakthrough COVID case” among their staff. The temporary closure also impacts Babygold Barbecue, the restaurant affiliated with the music venue.

All weekend events will be rescheduled and club owner, Will Duncan, noted on social media that the “wellness break” prioritizes the health and safety of employees, artists and patrons associated with FitzGeralds. The club will open when they are “100% in the clear” and Babygold Barbecue will resume food service at that time.

“COVID continues to be in the air and that presents a challenge to someone operating a business where social distancing is a challenge,” said Duncan to Wednesday Journal. “My experience in the last 24 hours doesn’t make me feel very optimistic, but optimism is my thing. I will remain relentless in my commitment to offer great music and delicious food in a safe atmosphere.”

Duncan is clear the staff members who tested positive for COVID-10 are asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms; the remainder of employees have tested negative for the virus thus far. Reaction to the closure on social media has been overwhelmingly positive with patrons and musicians applauding the decision. The Cook County Department of Public Health chimed in saying, “Good luck for a speedy recovery to all who are sick. Thank you for making the tough choice to keep people safe. Rock on!”

This is not the first temporary closure for the club. COVID-19 first prompted Duncan to voluntarily suspend operations in October 2020 when a part-time employee tested positive; the closure lasted four days. In November 2020 the music venue entered a hibernation in response to rising COVID 19 cases in Chicagoland and reopened their patio in March 2021. The club began requiring proof of vaccination or negative COVID test to enter their main indoor space in August 2021.

Duncan, who has been quick to pivot during the pandemic, has noticed a wanning “enthusiasm” for mask wearing among patrons despite FitzGeralds requirement they be worn on the premises.

“I presume this could happen again and pausing operations in response to positive cases will probably become part of our new normal,” said Duncan. “COVID is still a serious concern, and we do not want to be responsible for continuing the spread. This is one more step along the path.”

Though he expects to reopen “sometime next week,” Duncan said there is not a firm reopening date.  He will keep the public informed about progress via Facebook, Instagram and the Fitzgerald’s website.

“When there is exposure in the work place you have to take a pause and figure out what is going on,” said Duncan. “It was a clear choice — to the point there really was no choice.”

UPDATE: After a week of rest, Fitzgerald’s is scheduled to reopen Sidebar and Babygold Barbecue on November 11. A post on Facebook implored all guests to “mask up” saying, “We are total freaks about masks ’cause we can’t afford to be closed for another week.” The post went on to say news about the nightclub’s mainstage reopening would be forthcoming.

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