Goodbye, Scratch Deli

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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.

--Nona Tepper

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Pam Fontana  

Posted: September 11th, 2018 3:18 PM

Michelle, I am for video gaming to be allowed to continue in FP. My statement was just about Scratch's business and the other one that had machines removed. Your business needs to be open many hours and attract customers at many hours of the day to accommodate many different work schedules. I hope that SKL never closes in FP. That would truly be a loss to FP and Madison Street.

John R. Hosty Jr.  

Posted: September 11th, 2018 2:26 PM

This article was about Scratch. My best to you Patrick for always pushing new ideas and giving a business idea a true opportunity to grow. Also know you have been committed to Forest Park- which makes you a true local businessman. Thanks & all the best.

John Gorny  

Posted: September 10th, 2018 9:34 PM

Video gaming machines are being removed from businesses who found few people were coming in to play them. Maybe I'll vote NO in NOvember. The ban is not really needed.

Michelle Andres Fitz-Henry  

Posted: September 10th, 2018 9:28 PM

Pam - we find ourselves in agreement. I certainly don't think the whole business world's successes or failures hinge on gambling either. Please spread the word! It seems some think that not only businesses success in Forests Park hinges on gambling but that the Village of Forest Park's success itself hinges on that as well. We find common ground that neither do. Amen.

Pam Fontana  

Posted: September 10th, 2018 8:49 PM

Michelle, the whole business world's successes and failures do not all hinge on gaming. Patrick tried to set up a bigger shop than SKL, right across from it and it failed. Plus, he opened two other restaurants in Oak Park. That takes a lot of $$ and time. Guessing he figured out it wasn't the best to have two places directly across the street from each other as evidenced in his opening his two Oak Park places in totally separate business districts so they don't end up cannibalizing each other.

Michelle Andres Fitz-Henry  

Posted: September 10th, 2018 6:27 PM

I am glad that Scratch is doing well in Oak Park. Maybe it isn't what Oak Park has to offer, but what it doesn't have to offer. One of the many empty promises that were offered by the bar owners who wanted Forest Park to gave video gambling was that it would help to keep businesses from closing and minimize empty store fronts. That, along with decreasing property taxes, keeping fees from increasing, and decreasing unfunded pension liabilities never happened. I never thought it would, personally. This is the second business that had gambling that was not successful and has closed in the last few weeks. There are several other bars that had gambling but got rid of their machines because it wasn't the draw they thought it would be and they didn't make enough money to justify them. I don't think that sales tax in general has increased either which could indicate that the increased foot traffic on Madison that would benefit our boutique shops and restaurants that was promised never happened either. It has become more and more apparent with each passing month that video gambling only benefits a few. Granted those few benefit in a big way - but not so much anyone else. The fact that those few would take the issue of the residents voting on this all the way up to the Illinois Supreme Court is actually stunningly disappointing and self serving. The lack of benefits of video gambling are speaking for themselves.

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