Local Restaurants Struggle to Stay Afloat Throughout Covid-19 Pandemic

George+Vergados%2C+owner+of+Mickey%27s.+%28Photo+by+Brielle+Conwell%29

George Vergados, owner of Mickey’s. (Photo by Brielle Conwell)

Brielle Conwell

The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing protocols have made business difficult for many local restaurants. Concordia University Chicago is a part of a tight-knit community and many restaurants in the Oak Park and River Forest areas both rely on and enjoy the presence of CUC students and staff at their businesses. In the spring of 2020, the pandemic forced restaurants to close their doors, and CUC had to send students home for the remainder of the semester. For months, students were not on campus to visit their favorite local restaurants.

It has been almost one year since CUC sent students home to finish their spring 2020 semester. Now, in the spring semester of 2021, we have gained some sense of normalcy and a small number of students have returned to campus. Additionally, in light of Cook County moving into Phase 4 of the Illinois Resurgence Mitigation Plan, restaurants are once again allowed to have limited indoor seating. That means members of the CUC community can now dine at their favorite local restaurants again. 

Georgia Dravilas, the owner of Cozy Corner Breakfast Boutique located on the corner of Marion and Lake Street in Oak Park, explained how Covid-19 restrictions have made business difficult for her and other small business owners. “I think across the board everyone is struggling,” said Dravilas. While keeping her restaurant open wasn’t an easy process, she is grateful that Cozy Corner has been able to remain successful and serve the community. 

Dravilas explained that students from CUC and other surrounding universities are familiar faces that have been missed throughout the pandemic. She was excited to hear that CUC students are back on campus and she looks forward to seeing more students and staff now that Cozy Corner is open for dine-in every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Another local Oak Park restaurant owner, George Vergados, spoke about his experiences over the course of the pandemic. Vergados is the proud owner of Mickey’s Gyros & Ribs, which has been serving the Oak Park and River Forest communities since 1991.“The students I do miss and seeing young people here, the staff that works at the school and the students when they had games and events, that’s part of what makes a community a community,” said Vergados. 

“We are very grateful that we had some money on hand and we were able to keep our doors open and keep all of our employees working,” said Vergados. “We are still going through this crisis and we are looking to move forward.” 

 Mickey’s remains a successful staple in the Oak Park and River Forest community. “Think of life as you are driving a car and as you’re looking forward everything’s much bigger, but when you look back in your rear-view mirror, everything becomes smaller,” Vergados said. We want to think of yesterday as being smaller and we are looking forward to everything becoming bigger and better.” said Vergados.

Mickey’s Gyros & Ribs is located on 525 North Harlem Avenue in Oak Park and is open every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.