The news last week that two lynchpins of the Madison Street bar and restaurant scene have permanently closed offers a chill to match the autumn temperatures, which will soon end any outdoor dining options in town.
Francesca’s, which we think of as Forest Park’s first fine dining spot, at least since the days of Otto’s and Homer’s, announced that it could not sustain itself in this pandemic and would not reopen. Healy’s West Side was long one of the street’s destination taverns with its local ties. Both closings leave gaping holes on the street.
The bigger worry is that COVID measures of higher positivity testing and rising hospitalizations might shortly lead Gov. J.B. Pritzker to reimpose strict limits on indoor dining and drinking. If that happens, and we understand why it might be necessary, the damage to Forest Park’s vital hospitality industry could grow exponentially. Francesca’s and Healy’s could be just the harbinger of many other closings.
These are small businesses. The big dreams of good people willing to take on risk. They were never designed to withstand the pressures of a pandemic, especially one as horribly managed by our federal government as this one.
We look for bright spots such as the reinvention Chef Gaetano Di Benedetto has brought to his Madison Street space. In short order he has converted the restaurant space into an artisan food market. We wish him success.
Shorter days, colder days bring reports from medical experts that the harshest days of COVID-19 are just ahead of us. We urge you, if you are able, to invest in Forest Park by reaching deep for carry out and delivery from your favorite local restaurant. Our support is their only path to spring.