Stay in the Loop

Restaurants, Bars Draw Enthusiastic Crowds for Partial Reopening

With lots of sunshine and a pent-up desire to get out with friends, many North Loop restaurants and bars drew big (socially distanced) crowds over the weekend. They faced a few complaints from customers about the reservation requirements, capacity limits and other safety measures still mandated by the state, but overall, businesses were happy with the turnout.

“There were definitely a ton of people out,” said Darby’s owner Marcus Dorn, “and I guess from a Darby’s standpoint the ability to serve people inside didn’t really have a big impact, since most everyone wanted to be on our patio anyway.  Our patio was completely full on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening. Definitely praying for a lot of sunshine and mid 70’s weather all summer!”

“It was so much fun.” said Keely Nyquist, general manager of Borough and Parlour. “It was so wonderful to see guests back on our patios, eating our food and drinking our drinks. Pretty much everyone was just happy to be out! We also have a really dedicated staff who are re-acclimating to working in general, plus navigating all the safety standards we’ve put in place to keep everyone safe. My best advice for guests when going out during this time is to be flexible. Patio seating is weather dependent and could affect your night. Menu offerings might be different from what you’re used to, so perhaps double check the menu before you go in.”

The co-owner of ONE Fermentary and Taproom, Sally Schmidt, also noted how the pleasant weather helped. “We opened Wednesday and have been very busy through the weekend,” she said. “But we did it with a careful eye on health and safety protocols. With the help of our landlord and the City, we also were able to expand our patio; people like being in the fresh air and they also love the greenspace. I think people will be comfortable coming out if they see that you are spacing your seating, watching social distancing, contact tracing, sanitizing, cleaning, etc. It feels good to be back!”

Freehouse patio

At The Freehouse, where the patio reopened at the start of the month, marketing director Anna Mailliard, said it’s been like a homecoming.  “We have had a busy few weeks welcoming back our employees and guests,” she said. “It has been great to see regulars and neighbors. Our guests have really enjoyed the new patio and some of our new menu items as well as craft cocktails and Freehouse Beer.”

First Draft was able to reopen its kitchen and pour-your-own taps Thursday with a new touchless system. “We were thrilled to get the patio and some indoor seating open this past weekend,” said owner Andrew Valen. “We were quickly reminded of the love and support we have from the North Loop as our seating was maxed out on Friday night. We enjoyed seeing many familiar faces from the neighborhood but also being introduced to new guests who were unfamiliar with our concept. We believe that folks were attracted to our touchless tap key system and our expansive patio seating. At the moment, our number one priority is the safety of our guests and staff, and I think we succeeded this past weekend with the help of our set up and technology. We look forward to seeing everyone again this week starting on Wednesday at 3pm!”

The co-owner of Number 12 Cider, Steve Hance, said he looks forward to welcoming more people in the coming months. “We had a great crowd this weekend with the good weather,” he said. “Still way down with fewer people going out but otherwise a very fun atmosphere.”

After being closed nearly three months, the co-owner of Thr3 Jack, Lucy Robb, was pleasantly surprised at the turnout. “We opened our doors for the first time since March 17th excited, but unsure of what the response would be,” she said. “Even with a limited menu and hours, our patio was buzzing, we had golfers in the simulators, and there was a lot of traffic and energy in the Nordic plaza out our front doors. It was reinvigorating to serve guests again, get part of the Thr3 Jack team together, and to see the neighborhood out and about. Based on the overall success of the weekend, we plan to continue to expand our hours and menu in the coming weeks.”

By Mike Binkley, North Loop Neighborhood Association