'I'm still in shock' | News | Chicago Reader

'I'm still in shock' 

How Chicagoans, from creatives to nonprofit staff, are being affected by the novel coronavirus—and what we can all do to help

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click to enlarge Even "The Bean" is out of work.

Even "The Bean" is out of work.

Samantha Bailey

Anonymous case manager for a home for people with developmental disabilities, on quarantine because of the Vaughn High School aide who tested positive for the novel coronavirus
I'm on a mandatory 14-day quarantine. I recently got back from a trip, and I have a preexisting condition that makes me susceptible to illness. It's easy for me to work from home for 14 days, but our direct staff who have more hands-on roles—picking residents up from employment, cooking dinner, administering medications—don't really have that luxury. We're in one of those strange workplaces where we do have to put ourselves and our health second.

I feel terrible for the residents because they don't really question quarantine. They're used to it. Anytime we think a resident is sick, whether it's influenza A or influenza B or a respiratory infection, we put the house on quarantine. Because we don't staff during the day, we're going to run into issues if all work programs are shut down and residents have to stay home. Things are changing by the hour.

Anonymous commission-based makeup sales associate at a major department store on Michigan Avenue
My job entails using my makeup artist skills on clients, but right now we’re working under a “no touch” policy, which means that I cannot touch or apply makeup to a customer—so basically a makeup artist who can’t actually do makeup. It’s been really challenging. Something that would normally take two seconds to do now takes up 15 to 20 minutes. Most customers have been understanding, but our main problem is that we have almost no customers. Our client base is 75 percent tourist, and with all of the major conventions and things being shut down people aren’t coming in. That hurts our commission checks and we’re really concerned that a lack of sales means that our hours are going to get cut.

We’re taking every [pre]caution possible to be as clean and sanitary for ourselves, and our customers. If you feel healthy, by all means come in and shop. But if you don’t feel like coming in, call us rather than shop online. If you order through a real human, you’re securing their job. If they’re a commissioned sales associate they’ll get a commission for that sale. So that’s the best way you can help. When you go strictly through a dot-com it’s hurting the people around you that need it the most.

On an average day, my retailer has 200 to 300 people working. We’re all trying our best, and it’s a legit ghost town. On a day like today I would have already helped 30 to 40 clients, but I’ve only helped four people. That’s our current reality. We’re all in this together. The most important thing that we can do is support one another, and support our friends.

Cheri Basak, co-owner of Sideshow Gallery and Revolution Tattoo
At Sideshow we're paying our employees cash advances to cover the shifts they will miss during this initial closing. We are unfortunately canceling all classes and events indefinitely, and not quite sure when we will reopen. If social distancing becomes the norm for the unforeseen future, then we will be concentrating on online sales and livestreaming classes. While we've been open we have been selling books, tarot cards, candles, sage, and crystals. People are looking for self-care items and hobbies to keep them busy while being indoors. Our customers are using our spaces as refuge and time away to not think about the hardships ahead.

The interesting thing is that people still want to get tattoos. Inquiries are still coming to our inbox and people (as of now) want to keep their existing appointments. We do not know how long that will last. Our vibe is community, kindness, and helping each other. Our shops are so much more than the bottom line—our spaces bring the community together for human connections, and that's what is so sad about this whole thing. The isolation will be tragic in an already isolated world. Artists and open-minded thinkers thrive under oppressed circumstances. We will rely on creativity to carry us through the anxiety and hopefully be better people for it. Wonderful music and art will be made. Things people can do to help small business, artists, and other creatives is to buy something from them online or through social media. Take an online class or make a donation if you can afford to.

Christian, go-go dancer at The Lucky Horseshoe Lounge
Our entire job relies on close contact with people. Without that, it could be really scary. When I'm onstage, I used to come down to be appreciative and give them a little air kiss on the cheek or whatever. I don't do that anymore. Honestly, we're all worried about our livelihood because we can't work from home. Everything is “the end of March, the end of March.” If it goes to July and August, the summer, and all bars and restaurants are closed—not even just because I work at one, but because of my fucking life—I need the summer. Why couldn't this have been a December/January crisis?

Kaina Castillo, singer-songwriter
I'm pretty worried for my friends and for myself, just to see how we'll hold things over until it's OK to tour again, because that's how most of us make money—selling merch or being on tour. Sen [Morimoto] and I had to cancel our tour down in Texas, and South by Southwest got canceled. We were relying on some corporate gigs out there to help float the tour, and it became almost completely unsafe to just have a tour. I was planning on not being home for a whole month, basically, and that got completely flipped. Now we're all home, recalibrating.

We're talking amongst ourselves to see what we can do. I got lucky that one of the gigs at South by Southwest had an "act of God" clause in it, so I got paid for it. I have a little more time to figure it out. I saw that Audiotree is doing this cool thing where they're giving 100 percent of sales to artists for the month of March, so I might just try to push that. I might try to encourage people to buy merch of ours that we were gonna try and sell on tour, and save up what we have right now. We have to be super, super smart about how we spend money.

Foxie La Fleur, Crescent Moon Nerdlesque artistic director
For me personally, I lost close to $1,000 worth of gigs that I had stacked up this month in preparation for going to a user experience design program next month. Aside from just my own artistic gigs getting cancelled, during the day, I had a long-term contract job as a receptionist and an office coordinator for a corporate office. We found out late Thursday night that they were closing the office down starting Monday, and then I found out that they decided to end my contract early. So I just feel like literally all my avenues for income just disappeared.

Raven Gemini, Vaudzilla company manager
I'm a full-time creative, so I make approximately 50 percent of my income from burlesque performance, and I make the other 50 percent as an art model. Both of those things are dependant on situations that involve crowds of people, so I'm getting the double whammy of burlesque shows being cancelled because we don't want to be in large groups of people in a theater, and also all of the colleges are closing or going to online classes, so there's no need for me. That first day, I was just like, “What am I going to do? I'm just going to take a panic nap.” But then at some point yesterday, in a weird way, I felt very zen about it where it was like, "You know what? We'll just approach it as some weird dystopian adventure." 

Noam Greene, lead street-medicine outreach worker for the Night Ministry
I work on the street-medicine van. The big thing that we deal with is wound care and ongoing chronic health issues. Typically we help clients all over the city dealing with living outside or at the shelter. We provide free medical care, case management, substance-abuse advocacy, and HIV testing. The clients can come into the van and be treated by the doctors with some privacy. We're no longer treating clients in the van; we have to treat them outside. We've also suspended HIV testing because you would need to be quite close to the person because it's a finger prick. We also sometimes transport clients to important appointments for their housing or [to a] detox facility, and that's also something we're not able to do.

Our clients are already very vulnerable to sickness and isolated from services in society generally. I was with a client yesterday who wasn't aware that coronavirus is in the U.S. It's already impacted people's ability to make an income, whether they're asking for support on the street or engaged in sex work. Even at the best of times there's not enough shelter space for all the clients that we'd like to have inside. So I definitely can see that this would increase demand. We always appreciate financial donations. I know it's not that exciting, but it helps us purchase medical supplies that are urgently needed. If people have hand sanitizer, wipes, supplies like that would be a great thing to donate right now. And if you see someone outside, just be kind and offer some hand sanitizer or nonperishable food. We tend to give out granola bars or the premade tuna packs.

Gretchen Hasse, cofounder and member of Agitator Gallery
For the time being, we are pivoting to online content with donation links. During the week of March 14-23, our social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram will feature the work and practice of a different gallery member each day. It will be a good opportunity for people to get to know each of us better as artists. On Friday, March 20, we will host a live virtual tour of our current exhibit, The Chicago Sex Workers Art Show 2020. This is an annual exhibit we host with the Chicago chapter of SWOP, the Sex Workers Outreach Project. We started partnering with them last year and they’ve been amazing to work with. Over the two years we’ve been open we’ve had the great honor to partner with many fantastic organizations, and to amplify many underrepresented artists who deserve a platform. We are committed to continuing this work.

[To support artists and other creatives right now], be very vocal on social media about your support for artists and arts organizations. Buy art! And DONATE!!! Every little bit helps, believe me. If you or your employer have considered commissioning artwork, hiring an artist for graphic design or illustration or music or video etcetera, NOW WOULD BE THE TIME. Agitator can help connect people to artists, and I’m sure other arts organizations would be happy to as well.

Sarah Joyce and Eric Strom, GlitterGuts founders
We're riding the crest of our slow season, where money is at its tightest in the most extravagant of times. Holiday parties carry us through Valentine's, which carries us through to the solstice bacchanals, when everyone sheds their animal skins for summer clothes and sun-kissed skin, for tuxes and wedding dresses. But until then, when the parties are scarcer, a lot of our income comes from corporate events and headshots. Offices are sending their workers home, and no corporation wants to risk a headline that their party was the one where some hapless Patient Zero sparked the outbreak that would become the fifth star on the Chicago flag. Everything that happens outside our personal studio isn't happening at all.

Over the last year, we've made an effort to be more transparent about the work we do and the money we need to make a living wage. Talking about money doesn't come easy; we were raised by good midwestern parents who never did, and came up in an industry where the norm is to project cool and confident success and "the struggle" is only talked about in past tense. So we're reminding people that we have zines and pins and years' worth of photos they can order prints of. We do headshots and portraits, and have a fantastic Humboldt Park studio stocked with bubbly water, soap, toilet paper, and booze!

Things you can do to help us that aren't parties: You can order prints and high-res files of most of our photos from glitterguts.com! We've got zines and pins you can buy! We set up a website where you can book a headshot or portrait session with us (from a safe distance, and rescheduling is A-OK)!

Amanda Kraus, assistant professor and course coordinator at St. Augustine College
As we move coursework online to provide remote instruction for students who signed up for in-person instruction, we are encountering common challenges, like students (and instructors) who are unprepared to receive or deliver instruction online. Also, because most of our students are working adults, sometimes the only time they can dedicate to schoolwork is the time they spend in the classroom with us. Without that, it’s going to be a logistical and emotional challenge to carve out time for schoolwork. Many of our students waited for years for the opportunity to study. Our students are extraordinarily dedicated, but they also work at jobs that can't be done remotely: daycares, grocery stores, restaurants, bars, airports, factories, doctors' offices, just to name a few. Taking care of their families, working full-time, and going to school is already a struggle; add the pressure of dealing with a pandemic, and you can imagine how hard it will be for students (and their instructors) to make sure we are doing our jobs well. We are working hard to make it happen and supporting each other along the way however we can. Our community spirit is part of what makes us special as an institution. 

Lisa, exotic dancer at Rick's Cabaret
I think a lot of dancers, for most of us, it is our main source of income. I do know some dancers that have other things going on, like they're in school, so they only dance part-time. But most of them are not juggling a corporate job with PTO and dancing several nights a week. Most dancers, at my club at least, rely on the clubs three nights a week. I am going to have a phone call with a coworker of mine to discuss setting up a relief fund.

Max Loebman, Rookie guitarist-singer
We were prepared to still go out and play shows. I'd just done an interview with Vice where I was super optimistic, and a day later, on the way to Pittsburgh, we were about 30 minutes out from Lexington—it was an eight-hour drive—and our show got canceled. Since then, we've canceled our release show, which was tonight [Friday, March 13] at the Bottle. We did have to cancel our entire March tour. In April, we're now playing two shows at the Bottle in place of our release show—that's April 10 and 11. 

Right now, bands—and the entertainment industry—just need the community that supports them. Last night, we had Jim and Cheryl Mooney from Pittsburgh take us out to dinner. They caught us on tour with Cheap Trick last month, and were going to go to the show last night; as soon as they heard it was canceled they met us at a gas station, they bought our dinner, they brought us snacks, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer, and wrote a nice note. It brought us a beacon of light when we were all really freaked out about how terrible things could be. It really, really made our night. Obviously we need to do what we can to ensure that everyone is healthy—if you're feeling sick, you shouldn't be going to large gatherings, and it seems like the best way to prevent this is by social distancing. We decided it's best if we don't hit the road for the month.

Mark, small north-side landlord
Nothing has really changed right now. I would expect nothing would change for a month or two months, but after two months I expect people will have fewer savings to compensate and will probably have delayed rent. I'm very conservative in the financial sense, so personally it won't affect me, but I still need to pay the bills, pay mortgages, and pay taxes. When you're financing a building, you always count on 10 percent of the rent not being paid, because people move or whatever. That number will probably double within the next few months. We sold a couple buildings last year, so we're down to eight units. I have pretty stable tenants. One tenant is a nurse; she'll be paid. Another tenant is a teacher; she'll be paid as well. I have one tenant who's a stockbroker; he'll be busy as well. But someone who is a bar or restaurant worker, a flight attendant—that'll be a major impact. I focus more on long-term tenants, but there's people who are doing low-cost renters or people in university rentals—I'd be more concerned for them. At the lower end of the rental market, it's gonna be a very difficult year.

Cindy Ogrin, nonprofit fundraising consultant
If you've purchased a ticket for a fundraiser or a [nonprofit theater] show that's been canceled, don't ask for a refund. Consider contributing more. If you can't volunteer at a shelter, you can collect goods for them. Reach out to organizations to see what support they need that you could do from home. There may be something creative you can do or offer that you wouldn't think would be helpful that could be very helpful. Even just checking in goes a long way—calling to say, "I'm going to put an extra $50 in the mail." It doesn't take much to make a big difference.

Dave Rempis, saxophonist and Elastic Arts board president
The last four days have been nuts—trying to finish up a seven-concert tour in the U.S. with Kuzu that ended on Saturday, while simultaneously coordinating with the board and staff at Elastic Arts at home in Chicago to figure out a game plan. I started to question whether finishing our tour made sense on Friday, even though we were well within guidelines issued by the CDC and others, with crowds of only about 30 people. I hope that we didn't make a poor decision there. For Elastic Arts, where I organize the Thursday night improvised-­music series and serve as board president, it was clear from the first round of messages with our board and staff that programming should be suspended immediately, which happened on Friday. We'll be discussing other options (streaming concerts done with no live audience?) on Monday, to see how we can move forward and try to help support the many artists who will be hurting even more than usual with zero income coming in.

Kristofer Sangari, owner of Events With a K event planning
Every single one of my projects and in my pipeline is canceled or on hold. The whole industry is this way. We all knew something was gonna come when South by Southwest was canceled. All anyone's doing right now is trying to figure out how they’re gonna ride out this wave. What was going to be a healthy second quarter is going to be a zero-income second quarter. For everything to stop right now is scary. People think of events as the people who go to them; there are hundreds, in some cases thousands of people who are putting those events on [including bartenders, caterers, delivery drivers, sound system workers, builders, etc.]. There are tons of small businesses.

If you’re planning something in September, let’s start planning now and write that deposit check. Prepare now for the future, we’re here. We just want some work. A friend of mine in LA said, “We’re all gonna need to party after this is done,” and I said, “Remember to hire professionals when you do.

Marc Stranger-Najjar, bassist in Huntsmen
There was definitely a lot of wound-licking [when our record release show got cancelled on March 13], but ultimately there was a sense of relief. We thought it was the responsible decision for the Empty Bottle to cancel the show. We want everybody to be safe, and if there’s anything we can do to help mitigate that process, we want to be a part of that. [Bands] are starting to work with what we have. One of the first things we talked about was to stream a release concert online, and we saw what Code Orange did with their release show too.

We want to make it a special evening and a special event, so on Friday I reached out to Treehouse Studios, which is where we practice and recorded our first record. They said, “We’re doing that tonight with Rookie.” We’re going to do it on Saturday night at 8 PM. That is if everyone is healthy, otherwise it’s not the responsible thing to do. 

It’s going to be essentially a closed set—we want to minimize as much contact as we can. If this was 1970 we’d have to hunker down and not play as many shows, but with our technology there are still ways to reach our fan base. I think it’s a matter of getting crafty. We’ve got to work with what we’ve got. We’ve come this far. We can only let ourselves get into the doom and gloom before we start finding solutions, and demanding solutions.

Tori Ulrich, founder and CEO of Chicago Super Sitters
Mr. Rogers said to look for the helpers, and I'm desperately trying to be a helper. Childcare is something that's going to be needed through whatever is coming, so we're willing to be creative. I have a roster of 127 sitters, and I'd say 75 percent of them are exclusively gig workers, people who found out [Thursday, March 12,] that all their jobs are being suspended.

[For parents whose events have been canceled,] consider keeping your childcare placement anyway and do something else with the time. If you are working from/staying home but childcare is still in the budget, feel free to let your sitter do their job so you can do yours. Many sitters will also be up for non-childcare-related help to keep the hours (online tutoring, doing errands, et cetera).

Sitters are willing to work.

Ryan Edmund Thiel, photographer, graphic designer, visual artist, and teacher
With the world basically being canceled, I feel that photographers, especially event photographers, are going to have an extremely hard time finding work. I am currently dealing with the prospect that upcoming large gigs in April and May, those which will pay my bills, will most likely be canceled. Another big event that fits with my visual art practice is also in jeopardy. To help with income, I also had a job interview this week in the service industry, and today was notified that the place will be closing down for a while and that they are no longer hiring. So yeah, I'm feeling screwed.

I am either having healthy or humorous conversations regarding COVID-19. Healthy in that we as friends, family, freelancers, artists, and hospitality workers should speak about our concerns with one another and offer any support we can. Humorous in that what are the chances a fucking global pandemic is the thing causes our problems right now? I mean, really? Right when I thought I was about to have my big break, civilization is wiped out. K bye!

I'm seeing this as an opportunity for a few things: Get creative about your skills and talents and how you can make money from them. Maybe you're an artist (of any discipline) and you can teach others. If you can write, maybe you can do e-mail marketing for a bullshit company for a while. (These are quite literally things on my list I'm trying to do). If you have a special and unique talent unlike anyone else, check out OnlyFans. Speaking to those who are creative, this is also the time to just go for that thing you've been putting off or dreaming about. Start the project, write the novel, open the sketchbook. Try new things, experiment, and get the fuck off social media.

Ken Vandermark, reedist and composer
On Thursday, March 12, Paul Lytton and I performed duo at Elastic Arts in Chicago, on a double bill with Kuzu (Tyler Damon, Tashi Dorji, Dave Rempis), who celebrated the release of their new album on Aerophonic, Purple Dark Opal. Our set was supposed to include Nate Wooley, but we had to make the decision to cancel a trio tour (which, in addition to Chicago, included Ypsilanti, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo). The situation connected to the novel coronavirus escalated in the 24 hours before the trio performance scheduled at Elastic, primarily due to Trump's blocking of flights to the U.S. from the EU. We became concerned that Paul, who had traveled from Belgium to make the concerts possible, could be stranded in the States if European nations moved toward responding in kind to Trump's actions.

I have never cancelled a tour in three decades of working as a musician. Even though it was the right choice to make—everyone involved, musicians, presenters, audience, are focused on people’s health and safety—it was extremely difficult. Good luck to everyone as we all work to overcome these conditions, and many thanks for understanding our decision. 

Alma Vescovi, owner of Foyer Shop plant store in Andersonville
We decided to close the shop after Pritzker's announcement to close the restaurants. It didn't feel responsible to continue being a public space. It's pretty scary, because there's no end date to this and obviously we still have expenses like rent and utilities. It's possible we'll try to ask the landlord to negotiate something given the circumstances. I think the hardest part is cutting people's hours. Right now it's just one employee, she's not full-time, and we're trying to find a way to keep giving her hours even if we're closed to the public.

We don't have any e-commerce, but people can definitely buy gift cards from our website. [On Sunday] we did sell most of the plants, and it's definitely crossed our minds that it was our last day being open. That seems like one of the more dramatic thoughts, but it doesn't seem impossible. If our expenses add up and we don't have revenue, at a certain point there's nothing we can do. It's really more important that people not die than a plant shop survives. So it wasn't really a hard decision at the end.

Madeline Wellen, on recovery groups
Recovery groups are taking a huge hit in this pandemic as churches and Alano Clubs close to respect the suggestions on social distancing. It's disheartening when I've learned how to be close to people in those rooms through handshakes and hugs, but this is allowing online meetings to come to the forefront for those. They have been around for a long time for those who don't like leaving their houses, but definitely are challenging to understand for those (most at risk to the disease) who aren't as familiar with technology. Isolation is a big killer for those struggling with addiction and recovery, but phone calls and online meetings will have to keep us afloat until then.

Scott Worsham, owner Bar Biscay, mfk
Obviously the Illinois Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association seem to be being as proactive as they can, but a lot of this seems really last-minute. There doesn't seem to be a plan. They just threw tens of thousands of people out of work with a 3 PM announcement. They just dumped it all on us business owners to figure it out overnight. The extra galling thing is the implication that restaurants, which are required by law to be super clean, are to be shut down. A good restaurant is one of the cleanest public places in the city.

We still owe our liquor bills in 30 days on whatever arrived two days ago. Between the two restaurants, we're between 50 and 60 people. We have a couple managers that aren't on full salary—they work for tips. We just threw most of the staff out of employment with no notice. That's not how we should be treating people. We're encouraging every employee to start the employment assistance application right away.

It's the worst possible situation, and now we all have to survive.

We are committing to remaining open and keeping all of our salaried people employed. We're gonna do family-style meal delivery service: We're calling it a Real Good Dinner, a prepared dinner for two that you can order from our website in increments of two: entree, appetizer, salad, a dessert. And then we're also gonna be doing basic grocery deliveries for a small delivery fee, basically like your well-stocked bodega—Bodega Biscay. Whatever basic staples you need to cook.

Hopefully our local, state, and federal governments understand that this is not just a health crisis. What is about to happen to this city without a solid safety net for people being thrown out of work? Liquor distributors, linen companies, produce deliveries—anything you can think of. It's a whole network of people that keep the restaurants afloat. It's a domino effect that has no end in sight, unless the government steps in and says this is where the dominoes stop falling.

Everyone is just worried about making it through. Restaurants are already run on very low margins. The whole landscape just changed within several weeks, and the information keeps changing every hour. So we're just trying to roll with the punches.

Ana Wright, Young Chicago Authors director of programming
I still am in shock. LTAB [Louder Than a Bomb], we start planning that in September—so from September 2019 until now, it gradually picked up, with getting venues and scheduling all the things. It's been work nonstop. LTAB is very, very, very busy, so to just be working, working, working, and then boom, it's a stop—my mind really hasn't adjusted yet to the fact that we're postponing.

Wednesday [March 11] and Thursday [March 12], we had our quarterfinals at Columbia, and those were our last two days at Columbia. We did something that we probably haven't done since year one or two: the poets didn't use microphones. We thought, "OK, we can at least try to make an attempt to stop the spread of germs via microphone," otherwise we would have to clean it after every poet; there's five rounds and probably 30 poets. The poets didn't find out until they got there. In Columbia's spaces they're used to using microphones and not having to project their voices as much as they would if they didn't have microphones, but they quickly adjusted to it.

We were following CPS's lead, so as long as CPS was open, we were going to keep going with LTAB. Some of the suburban schools are closing down, and then we were like, "We're just trying to get through quarters. If we can get through quarters and then postpone, then at least we'll have our 16 core teams."

LTAB is a core of YCA, but YCA still has other programming that it does in-house year-round. Every Tuesday we have Wordplay, which is the longest-running youth open mike in the city. We have not canceled Wordplay. [LTAB has since canceled all remaining March programming.] We've canceled some of the other programming that was going to happen in March. But we know that Wordplay is a source for so many people to come, write, share, and network. We're a safe space. We have a mantra in the beginning that we all say together: no racist, no sexist, no homophobic, no transphobic, no gender biased, no ageist or otherwise derogatory language or behavior allowed. We adhere to that—we feel like you have to keep that going.

Nick Wylie, managing director of Public Media Institute (parent organization of Lumpen Radio WLPN-LP and the Co-Prosperity Sphere)
The "Slaysian show" (the next scheduled exhibit at Co-Prosperity Sphere, which was scheduled to open March 20) includes 38 artists from the Asian diaspora selected by curator Jenny Lam. We got very close to hosting a limited, artists-only reception along with online streaming of performances; Lam was in the middle of laying out placement for artworks for artists coming in yesterday when we made the call to postpone. We’re developing an online-only version of "Slaysian" for now. Lam already has digital representation of much of the work, and it might look like a really robust exhibition website or something more experimental. We’re excited to work with Jenny and other partners to experiment with live-streaming platforms like Twitch to deliver culture to people as they hunker down and get bored. An exhibition created by Lariel Joy will be on view in our three window displays starting March 20 so people can see that as they walk or drive past. 

We were going to have a concert with a female Scottish symphonic composer last night until our booking partners canceled. Weddings and wakes were also postponed. Lumpen Radio hosts continued to come in (the studio is inside the Co-Prosperity Sphere building), but now we are shifting to airing hosts’ prerecorded shows so no one is required to be in-studio. We’re continuing to prepare the next issue of Lumpen magazine remotely.

Seth Zurer, founder of Baconfest
Yeah, I'm freaking out. It’s a global pandemic. It feels like the end of the world. The fallout from this on events, restaurants, tourism, hospitality . . . everything . . . can’t be overstated. It just sucks. 

My therapist has tried to persuade me otherwise, but I've long suspected that my anxiety is actually the key to whatever success I've had. Until this year, that anxiety seemed to work pretty well. We've fended off militant vegan protesters, shipped 50,000 pounds of bacon to restaurants, given nearly half a million bucks to the Greater Chicago Food Depository

But even in my most paranoid of panic-driven apocalyptic thinking, I didn't anticipate a global pandemic and a national lockdown. Even four days ago, if you’d told me that all restaurants would be closed today by the state, I’d’ve been skeptical. 

We’re out of the realm of anxiety now and into real consequences. I hope everybody that loves Chicago’s restaurant scene will support chefs and restaurant staff by buying gift cards and ordering takeout and delivery. And I truly hope people remember to give to the food bank, which depends on all of our support to keep feeding hungry people, now more than ever.  v

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