Cold spring costing Chicago businesses – Consumer News

on Apr16

16 April 2018 | 10:00 am

Tom Bolas studies the forecast like his life depends on it.

His business certainly does.

He’s the general manager of James Martin Associates in Vernon Hills, a landscaping service. His work begins as early as the beginning of March, and it’s typically in full production by the beginning of April, Bolas says. “The cold weather is one part, but having two measurable snow events in April has delayed our ability to set up,” Bolas says.

Most of Bolas’ landscape trucks are snow plows in the winter, and he can’t turn them over into landscape trucks until the threat of snow has disappeared. It takes 50 to 75 hours to transform the trucks, so he’s in limbo and his productivity has been inhibited.

Not only has the unseasonably cold spring turned Chicagoans’ moods sour and ruined the official first day of the Cubs’ and Sox home openers—it’s also taken a financial toll on businesses.

Parlor Pizza Bar in the West Loop is waiting to open its 1,000-seat rooftop until the weather becomes warmer on a regular basis, says Arianna Jauregui, a hostess. “Last year, we opened it in February,” she says. “Any time we open it, it’s packed.”

And since the rooftop serves so many, Parlor Pizza Bar hires an extra group of staff to serve there. Lots of people have stopped by to apply for the seasonal shifts, but the pizza bar can’t give out shifts until they open the outdoor areas, Jauregui says.

Gus Katsafaros, owner of Marmalade in Ravenswood, says his restaurant’s 20-seat patio makes up a third of his revenue, and so far, he’s down about 12 percent from last spring. If weather like this continues, it will be incredibly bad for business.

The poor Chicago weather has gotten so bad that Katsafaros is starting to wonder if it’s even worth it to have a patio anymore. “The permit says we can have the patio open from March 1st through November 1st, but good luck,” he says. “Sometimes, it’s not worth it because of the number of days that it rains, the city fees and taxes, and how much it snows in April.”

For some, however, it’s a lot trickier to be creative. “The combo of the long winter and the cold rainy spring and the flu season really impacted our business because people weren’t coming out of their homes,” says Connie Brown, owner of The Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor in Forest Park. Business is down 7 percent this spring compared with last year. It’s also affecting the dozens of people Brown is waiting to hire for seasonal work.

For Brown Cow, the seasonal season officially begins on the first 60 degree Saturday, which can be in February or in May. Once that warm day hits, she hires 11 extra employees, adding to her 15-person year-round crew. As of April 13th, she was still waiting. “The people are poised and ready, but I can’t afford to put them on the schedule yet,” Brown says.

Some businesses have gotten creative. Chris Latchford, owner of Kaiser Tiger in the West Loop, converts its 250-seat beer garden into three ice-curling rinks during the cold weather. The rinks take up a lot of the space, but there’s still plenty of room for onlookers to cheer on the curlers, and they’re a very popular amenity, Latchford says.

In previous years, the curling rinks were down by St. Patrick’s Day, but this year, he kept them up through the second week of April. Latchford is also installing heaters on the retractable roof. “Chicagoans love to be outside when they can: a beer in one hand, and a curling stone in the other,” he says.

A few lucky businesses actually thrive in the rollercoaster weather Chicago can provide.

Anika Byrley, owner of Precision Piano Service in Chicago, says business is up 45 percent over last year. “Pianos are made primarily out of wood, and are highly affected by temperature and humidity changes,” she says. “This back and forth spring weather is the worst possible scenario for instrument owners, making technicians like myself indispensable.”



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