With indoor service at local bars and restaurants again prohibited in the face of rising COVID cases and hospitalizations, Tim Gillian, Forest Park’s village administrator, made a simple and clear assessment of the potential impact of the new restrictions.
“This news is not unexpected but extremely sad,” he told the Review on Monday. “There’s no end in sight for these small businesses, and I’m concerned that many of them will not survive. This shutdown could change the face of Forest Park for years to come.”
A destination for celebration, for the succor of a family gathered, for a couple of pops after a good day’s work, restaurants and bars are the face of Forest Park’s commercial strips. And virtually every one of them is independently owned, many of them locally owned.
We’ve watched with fascination and admiration over the past 20 years as Madison Street has transformed with a mix of higher-end restaurants, such as the recently shuttered Francesca’s and Heritage, the just reinvented Gaetano’s market, and stalwarts like Louie’s Grill and Jimmy’s Place. We’ve watched as the endless string of taverns has both thinned out and also remade themselves into more interesting, more niched-out spots, more purposeful than promoting a $2 bottle.
This is entrepreneurialism at street level. But entrepreneurs lack endlessly deep pockets and this stunningly mismanaged pandemic is pushing these neighbors of ours to the brink and, increasingly now, over the brink.
Gillian is right. The raft of closings just ahead is likely to change the face of Forest Park for years. The recovery from this, and we haven’t even defined the bottom, is going to be painful and long.
Another reason to admire the comments of Forest Park’s largest bar owner, Marty Sorice, who told the Review Monday, “As much as it will hurt my family and my coworkers, this is the right thing to do.”
That’s common-sense patriotism right there. There is no way through this except together. Our president and the government he leads have done nothing but sow division with its balderdash of freedom and individual rights to ignore this pandemic.
Ignoring it has brought us to this latest precipice.