Bar, restaurant owners near Soldier Field cross fingers Bears — and their mutual customers — stay in cityMitch Dudekon September 29, 2021 at 8:32 pm

The owners of bars, restaurants and hotels near Soldier Field who rely on customers who flood the area when the Bears play home games are hoping the city strikes a deal to prevent the team from moving to Arlington Heights

“For lots of reasons, it would be sad,” said Grant DePorter, head of Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group, which has a location on Navy Pier that shuttles fans to and from Soldier Field via boat on game days.

“When the Bears play it brings a lot of business to Chicago, a lot of people travel in for the weekend to watch their team play the Bears and fill up hotels and restaurants. It would be a big economic loss. I’m just hopeful they’ll decide to stay,” DePorter said.

“In New York City and Los Angeles, they have Hollywood actors, but in Chicago your celebrities are the sports stars, and the Bears are some of the biggest stars that exist,” he said.

“The Bears are great for us,” said Billy Lawless, owner of the Gage, a restaurant on Michigan Avenue that’s walking distance from the field. “A move wouldn’t be good for hotels and restaurants in the area, but realistically it’s only eight days a year,” he said, referencing the amount of regular season home games the Bears play.

“I hope they can work it out, though. Emotionally, it’s very important to have the Bears in the city, they’re part of our identity,” Lawless said.

Sam Toia, head of the Illinois Restaurant Association, is hopeful a deal can be struck.

“A move for the Bears out of the city would definitely impact restaurants and bars in the South Loop, West Loop and central business district,” he said.

“Hopefully City Hall and the Bears can work it out,” he said. “We do have (restaurant) members in Arlington Heights as well, but Chicago is the economic engine of the state.”

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