It goes without saying that many in Chicago are approaching the big NATO Summit at the end of May with a sense of dread most people save for trips to the dentist, or perhaps, a niece’s piano recital.
Many, but not all.
"We always think of business opportunities," says Tabitha Jackson, general manager of the Papa John’s franchise just west of McCormick Place. Jackson found out this week that her restaurant lies just outside what will be the security perimeter of the NATO conference. And she hopes plenty of hungry people inside the boundaries will seek her out.
"If they don’t feel like going out of the house because they know traffic is hectic, at least we will," she said. "So maybe they’ll give us a call."
Jackson is not alone. With thousands of visitors expected in Chicago, even those who might be coming to express outrage over world economic policies are potential customers.
"We are going to be open," said Chef David Gupta at the Chef Luciano restaurant near Cermak and Wabash. "Anybody who’s going to McCormick Place is going to be outside, right here."
Gupta says he hopes to serve everyone, protesters and ambassadors alike.
"I’m very proud of this city. I’ve put a lot of labor into this spot in this neighborhood,” he said. “And if somebody gets totally out of control, I’ll say ‘Here’s a cold lemonade, on the house for you.'"
From fencing for the giant convention center, to food for the outraged masses, there is plenty of money to be made. Indeed, some commerce is being generated by just the fears that something might happen.
Lee Lumber on Pershing Road has been busy delivering plywood and other board-up supplies to downtown apartment buildings who are worried about the potential of smashed windows.
"We’ve probably made about 30 to 35 deliveries," says owner Randy Baumgarten. "Some of the buildings are taking it to keep, and some of them are planning on returning it."
Returns are not commonplace, nor are they encouraged at most lumber yards. But Baumgarten says he will take any of the supplies back if they aren’t needed. The company will charge a restocking fee, he says, but that’s because of the significant cost of handling and deliveries.
"I hope it doesn’t get used,” he said. But he quickly added, "And they keep it!”