Navy Pier closing temporarily September 8 due to low attendance, aims to reopen next spring

Chicago News

CHICAGO  — Facing a drastic decline in visitors during the pandemic, Navy Pier will be shutting down September 8 and reopening in spring of 2021, pier officials said Tuesday. 

It’s one of Chicago’s top tourist attractions, but even its giant Ferris wheel and other lakeside attractions haven’t been enough to keep the pier afloat this year because of COVID-19.

Pier officials say they looked at various options, but this was the only scenario that made the most sense for preserving its long-term future.

“The temporary closure will allow the Pier and its partners to reduce its operational expenses and support efforts to limit COVID-19 cases as we move into the fall and winter seasons,” Navy Pier President and CEO Marilynn Gardner said in a statement.

The pier closed back in March because of the pandemic, and partially reopened June 10 to try and capitalize on what’s typically been a busy summer season. 

But attendance is less than 20 percent of normal, and restaurants which are usually filled to capacity are struggling as well. 

“Capacity restrictions have limited our ability to fully operate and welcome people on a larger scale,” Navy Pier spokesperson Payal Patel said.

Brown Sugar Bakery is known for its rich, buttery caramel cakes and other baked goods. Owner Stephanie Hart said closing is the right thing to do from a business perspective, even if it’s hard to do.

“Navy Pier’s main revenue makers like the Centennial Wheel and the Children’s Museum, as well as events spaces such as the Grand Ballroom and crystal gardens have remained closed since March,” Hart said. “Because the pier is an independent nonprofit with no tax support or endowment, it’s facing major losses.”

Patel said even with closing early the pier is projecting a $20 million deficit for 2020, and it would probably be more if they remained open.

Hart said she will be relying on her 75th Street location and other online innovations to keep her business afloat and employees working until the pier reopens next spring.

“I can’t wait to love on people with cake at the pier, I just cannot wait,” Hart said. “I believe we will come back stronger.”

Public access to the Pier’s outdoor spaces, including Polk Bros Park and North and South Docks, will also be limited or prohibited during the closure.

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