Normalcy Returns Along The Chicago River as Vendors Reopen

Lines formed early Friday afternoon as vendors along Chicago’s Riverwalk opened for the season

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City officials are allowing just three vendors to open for now along Chicago's Riverwalk, but 10 more will open by May, according to a press release.

Island Party Hut, Beat Kitchen, and City Winery are among the first to reopen after a year of business challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Robert Gomez opened Beat Kitchen just as the pandemic hit.

Gomez said he feels like he’s getting a second chance this year.

“It’s really been a matter of when. We knew it would come at some point, but would it be years?” said Gomez. “It’s been such a long and lonely winter [and] year, really.”

Steve Majerus, a partner at Island Party Hut, usually relies on tourism to keep the business afloat. He said it’s roughly 25% of his business.

But when the pandemic delayed last year’s opening and tourism dropped to historic levels, it was the surrounding community that kept them going, he said.

“On many levels, the most challenging year that we’ve had since we’ve been here,” said Majerus. “We’re hoping to have our full menu back and bring some live music back in.”

Even though City Winery’s Riverwalk location didn’t open until 1 p.m. on Friday, a line started forming shortly after 12:30 p.m.

Nick Ray, the location’s general manager, is hopeful that his prime location will attract tourists and locals this summer.

“To reopen in April; our domes coming back and people walking around the Riverwalk happy to see us back, we’re thrilled,” said Ray.

City officials will phase in each vendor’s reopening with more vendors opening their doors on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

The best part -- many of the vendors along the Riverwalk don’t require reservations.  

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