By Nona Tepper
After almost three years on Madison Street, Scratch Deli Cafe has closed, with the business completely cleaned out and "For Lease" signs posted on the window.
"It happened a few months ago," an employee at Scratch Kitchen across the street said of the deli's closure, although she declined to be named. A Yelp user reviewed the business as open as recently as late July.
Scratch Deli was known for its sandwiches, salads and coffee, along with an event space that housed some 50 people. Owner Patrick O'Brien opened the space in Nov. 2015 across the street from his highly-rated Scratch Kitchen, saying at the time it was only natural to expand once 7444 W. Madison St. became available.
Known for its chalk written menu, some say the writing was on the wall for the deli for some time.
In March 2017, video games were installed at Scratch Deli, although they were later removed due to lack of use, O'Brien said.
This January, O'Brien started accepting electronic currency at his full-service restaurants, thinking bitqy could be a novel way to drum up sales.
"Business has been a little rough," he told the Forest Park Review at the time.
In April, O'Brien reduced his liquor license to only carry beer and wine—removing liquor from the mix—telling the Forest Park Review that he wanted Scratch Deli to focus more on catering.
"The [catering] business has grown, so it's overtaking the café and becoming a private event space," he said.
"We're finding our niche there," he added.
In addition to his full-service Scratch Kitchen & Lounge restaurants in Forest Park and Oak Park, O'Brien opened District Kitchen and Tap in the Oak Park Arts District this May. He did not respond to interview requests, and neither did the landlord. A real estate agent marketing Scratch Deli's old space declined to comment.