Friends and regulars raise over $20K to help neighborhood bistro keep its doors open

Chicago News

CHICAGO — At the corner of Broadway and Rosedale Avenue in Edgewater sits Broadway Cellars, a labor of love run by Tom and Geri Foley for 15 years.

While the neighborhood-focused bistro had a loyal following and steady business for years, their business got hit hard like most restaurants at the start of the pandemic.

“We say that you make money very slowly in the restaurant business but you lose it very quickly,” Tom Foley said.

The stimulus got them through to the summer and into last week, when nice weather was a welcomed relief and kept diners safe and served outside. The wind-whipped tents outside the restaurant now serve as a reminder of how so many restaurants adapted to keep afloat. 

“It did bridge that gap between the spring and the time you could start serving more people outside,” Tom Foley said.

But with a surge of new Covid cases, governor JB Pritzker banned indoor dining once again two weeks ago. And as the weather turned, so did the fortunes of Broadway Cellars and other restaurant owners and employees.

Without help from another stimulus or outdoor dining, they say it may be a matter of weeks before they’re forced to close.

But the restaurant’s saving grace came in the form of longtime friend Liz Mallon, who started a GoFundMe page hoping to raise some cash to get the Foleys and their 14 employees through tough times. So far it’s raised more than $21,000.

“I think the outpouring of love from the neighborhood and patrons is so much, it is so wonderful,” Mallon said. 

Geri Foley believes being smart with that cash combined with a temporary closing in the traditional slow season through the holidays could help their business and employees in the long term.

“We’re going to see where we have to help them out to get through the next month or two and then hold this money back and use it for reopening,” she said. “It restores your faith in humanity; it’s trite but it’s true.”

Mallon said the fundraiser is proof that friendship can create hope in difficult times, while she hopes additional aid from Congress or another source is on its way.

“It’s more than overwhelming, it’s deeply emotional, deeply  satisfying.  We feel rich with love, rich with friends right now,” Tom Foley said.

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