SSA#18 provides $113K in emergency funding for COVID-19 safety measures in Chicago’s Proudest Neighborhood | Northalsted | Lakeview district
CHICAGO – Northalsted’s Special Service Area (SSA) #18 has provided over $113,000 in pandemic support, helping area businesses stay afloat. Despite ongoing vaccinations, citywide reopening this spring is far from certain and the return of Chicago’s summer events season even moreso. Dining, bar and service businesses, operating at reduced capacity, find themselves in an increasingly precarious position.
The historically LGBTQ+ Northalsted neighborhood’s restaurants, bars, services and retail shops have thus far managed to stay in business with the help of community support, marketing campaigns, rapid pivoting of services, and crucial federal and local financial aid.
“Following the initial shutdown it became clear that day to day financial pressures, the desire to retain employees, and expenditures needed to meet reopening safety guidelines, had small businesses strapped for funds. With such a clear change in priorities caused by the pandemic, The SSA#18 Commission opted to reallocate a large swath of the budget towards urgently needed funding to help reopen businesses and enhance customer safety.”
Funding was diverted from cancelled events and less-needed services due to the pandemic downturn: Chicago Pride Fest®, Northalsted Market Days®, litter removal, supplemental snow removal, among others.
Chicago’s Special Service Area (SSA) business improvement program is made up of 53 city tax districts that typically provide funding for enhanced services such as extra maintenance, landscaping, beautification, marketing, events promotion, bike transit, facade improvements, signage, among others.
To date, a mix of 34 Northalsted area businesses sought help through the SSA #18 emergency programs. In date, the SSA #18 emergency programs have provided over $113,000 to assist with COVID-19 related costs. Examples include:
- Implementing safety measures in outdoor settings, eg. adding tents, heaters, screens, etc.
- Upgrading HVAC systems with UV sterilization, HEPA air filtration, window modifications, and other air quality measures.
- Additional staffing to monitor and maintain social distancing, capacity limits & temperature screenings.
- Cleaning and sanitizing expenses, e.g cleaning products, supplies and professional services.
- Digital marketing and social media consultants or promotions.
Steven Kopp, Director of Operations for CrossTown Fitness Northside highlighted some of the many purchases needed:
“During this extremely difficult time, we lost nearly half of our members…and having to switch workouts from in-person to digital was difficult because it loses some of the group fitness experience. We are grateful for the reopening support that helped us purchase a face scanner for temperature checks, UV shoe sanitizer, plexiglass barriers between treadmills and top-grade hand sanitizer dispensers.”
“The SSA programs made it possible to add UV air purification systems, extra safety supplies, and personnel needed to provide protection for staff and guests–while being open for business in a very restricted capacity, and with very limited cash flow…The challenge has been just to survive. Without the help from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) program, tax breaks, loyal customers, and local/SSA #18 support, we could not have made it even this far.”
While no Northalsted businesses have gone under during the pandemic, the situation is precarious. Allan O’Brien, owner of Men’s Room Chicago, has managed to defy the odds amidst the “retail apocalypse” with fashionable streetwear, accessories and fetish gear. He was caught in the middle of a planned move to a new location (next to Sidetrack) which will also house a new full service barbershop:
“The shut down last spring was so unexpected. We had to quickly pivot to Curbside Pick Up/Delivery, which kept us afloat, but we needed to let our customers know we were still there for them… Without the marketing funds that helped us balance our financial obligations, we would have been in a very tough position. The assistance also helped us keep employees on payroll as long as possible, for that we’re all grateful.
Managing partner Michael Hornick of renowned “meat free since ‘83” vegetarian spot The Chicago Diner, echoed the sentiment and explained:
“We’re a family run business and our staff mean a lot to us. Our goal was to keep as many people working that we could…we’re down to about half of what we had, hovering near breaking even and looking forward to rebuilding. When your reserves are dwindling, everything counts. The SSA #18 funds were a big help with marketing; we will be applying for help with delivery service fees this year.”
In recent years, SSA #18 has improved the Northalsted neighborhood by providing funding and sponsorship of:
- Events Chicago Pride Fest, Chicago Pride Parade, Northalsted Market Days, and Haunted Halsted Halloween Parade
- Social media promotions
- Holiday and other decor including public way landscaping, planters, street banners
- Sidewalk maintenance and cleaning
- Supplemental snow removal
- Public art sculptures
- Bike transit
- Infrastructure upkeep such as tree grates and trash bins
SSA #18 is continuing to address pandemic hardship in 2021 with four assistance programs. More information about these and other SSA #18 programs is available at northalsted.com/community.
Northalsted Business Alliance is the non-profit chamber of commerce organization (est.1980) for the Halsted Street corridor bounded by Belmont, and Irving Park/Broadway, whose mission is to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life for the Northalsted area through programming, services and events that celebrate our LGBTQ+ history, promote tourism, and foster a welcoming, safe community for all.