Saving restaurants and ourselves

Opinion: Editorials

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We were happy Monday to hear that Oak Park is "losing patience" with local restaurants that continue to flout the state-mandated closure of all indoor dining and drinking as COVID cases explode across Chicago and the nation. 

Working off complaints from residents and its own observation of violators, Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said village staff will ramp up from visiting non-compliant restaurants to cease-and-desist letters from the village attorney and, critically, held out the option of fully shutting restaurants down until they agree to comply completely.

Good. This is not the moment to mess around. Indoor dining is plain dangerous. 

At the same moment, an ad hoc group of locals are banding together to create motivation and mechanism to spur Oak Parkers to consciously order takeout every week from one of Oak Park's approximately 100 restaurants. We're not good at math but the leader of this effort, Ravi Parakkat, calculates villagers need to order up a million bucks of takeout every month to funnel $10,000 to each restaurant.

The ask is that locals spend a minimum of $25 per week for takeout at local restaurants.

Here's what we like about Parakkat's effort (and, yes, he is currently a candidate for Oak Park trustee in the April election), it focuses us on possibility and urgency to save the critical and wonderful independent restaurant industry in our hometown.

"The debate between restaurant survival and public health does not yield any results that benefit the business or broader community. The solution has to be beneficial to both," says Parakkat. 

That's straight thinking. Good to see his effort joined by the leaders of local business districts, the chamber of commerce, the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation, Visit Oak Park, a5 Marketing, and Wednesday Journal's Oak Park Eats.

We love our restaurants. But we can't let a few outliers kill us before this pandemic is finally beaten to a pulp. Order in. Eat up. Live to tell the story.

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