Local favorite Paulie Gee’s (2451 N. Milwaukee Ave.) has closed its doors as COVID-19 continues to take hold in Chicago and small businesses like the pizza restaurant see less customers.
Owner Derrick Tung said the decision was also partially because of the current unemployment bill, which gives an additional $600 to each individual who files. Tung told LoganSquarist that amount of money was more than staff paychecks, so it made more sense for his staff could stay home, be safe and get paid from the government.
“I can’t keep risking my staff, as much as I want to help the community,” Tung said.
He said he took a pay cut from the last paycheck cycle to give $1,000 each to his staff to tide them over. He knows these next few months will be difficult for him and his staff but he made the decision that would keep everyone safe.
Until the state sees a slow in the coronavirus, the restaurant will remain closed, Tung said. No one knows when that will be — many predict the business closures will last until summer, and Chicago hasn’t hit its case peak yet. As of Tuesday, Illinois has 5,057 positive cases and 73 deaths, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 website.
While this is sad news for the community, Tung made sure to thank the staff, patrons and other businesses for their continued support during this time of crisis.
“It’s always amazing to see each of you in person (6 ft away) or virtually and we were honored to be part of your daily lives,” Tung wrote on Instagram. “Thank you to all the other restaurants that supported us! Small businesses supporting small businesses is so important… colleagues over competition!”
He told LoganSquarist that other national support has been much appreciated to keep Paulie Gee’s employees safe, noting that Guy Fieri is donating $500 to restaurant workers affected by the crisis.
Last week, One Off Hospitality, the restaurant group that owns popular Chicago restaurants Big Star, Publican, Avec, The Violet Hour and more, halted takeout and deliveries out of staff safety during the pandemic.
Check out our guide on ways to support other independent businesses in the area that need the love!