By Grace Ghee, Annelise Taylor, and Mackenzie Kokal, Loyola Sophomores
A Chicago fan favorite bar and restaurant, Hopleaf, is reopened on April 1st after being closed for five months.
After being open 365 days a year for over 28 years, COVID-19 put business to a slamming halt. This forced loyal customers to turn to other pubs and dedicated staff to await a questionable reopening.
Prioritizing safety for patrons and employees was at the forefront of Hopleaf’s decision making, thus forcing not one, but two closures. In March they originally shut down until the summertime when it was safe to have outdoor seating but, as the cold Chicago winter approached, they opted to close once more to keep everyone healthy.
Hopleaf owner, Michael Roper, discussed the hardships he and his team faced during the pandemic and the highly anticipated reopening.
Roper said, “Back last summer and particularly in the beginning of the winter, you know, it seemed like that was it. We were done. We were not going to reopen and our venture was doomed to close forever.”
Hopleaf, like many other restaurants, deeply struggled during this time. There were expenses to be paid, no money flow, and countless members of the community being affected by their closing.
When asked about the hardest part of it all Roper said, “We had to lay off all of our staff and for many of them that’s catastrophic. Fortunately, most of them are amazingly resilient and found a way and we haven’t lost any of the key people that have been with us, some of them for 25 years.”
While laying off staff members proved to be extremely difficult, more difficulties were yet to come as they faced the impending doom of accumulated finances.
Roper said, “We did a big expansion in 2012 where we bought the building next door and almost doubled our space. That was a very expensive project. We spent two and a half million dollars doing that so we had loans to pay off, we have leased equipment. Those bills keep coming whether you’re open or not.”
After all the hard times over the past year, Roper, the staff, and customers are all extremely excited to get back to it.
Matt Chavez, a radio host on di.fm and local foodie, said, “I’m stoked about them reopening! I’m happy to see any business make a comeback post COVID. When I tell people where I live, nine times out of ten they bring up Hopleaf. And for good reason! It’ll feel normal again, to go to Hopleaf after work, with a buddy for giant beers and tasty apps. It should be on EVERYONE’s go-to list.”
Not only is Hopleaf a local fan favorite, but also grabs the attention of college students. With quality alcohol choices, it is a perfect change of pace from the typical college sports bar.
Roper said, “We’ve always been a popular place for students to come in the daytime and study because you can sit there with a beer and glass of wine, carve out a booth and take your laptop out or take your books and start studying.”
For those worried about safety precautions, Hopleaf has you covered. They take COVID-19 very seriously as they don’t want their staff or customers to feel unsafe.
Safety being the first priority, Roper said, “Some places that have reopened have pretended that it’s 2019 again and we’re still going to be exceptionally careful. People will be sitting at tables and we’ve installed some plexiglass separation between booths. We are going to strictly limit ourselves to the 50% capacity. We don’t want to be that place that somebody went and caught COVID-19, not at this point.”
All this being said, Hopleaf will reopen on April 1st, no April Fools jokes here.
Hopeful, Roper said, “I think it’s being managed better and I’m feeling very optimistic that at the end of this we’re going to thrive again.”
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