Piece of historic Bronzeville coming to O'Hare Airport's international terminal

The City Council’s Aviation Committee authorized a 10-year deal for Bronzeville Bar and Bites to operate in Terminal 5. The joint-venture partnership will have 55% participation by minority and disadvantaged businesses.

SHARE Piece of historic Bronzeville coming to O'Hare Airport's international terminal
A rendering of the new Bronzville Bar and Bites restaurant opening in Chicago O'Hare Airport's recently expanded Terminal 5.

A rendering of the new Bronzville Bar and Bites restaurant opening in O’Hare Airport’s recently expanded Terminal 5.

Chicago Department of Aviation

A piece of Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood is coming to O’Hare Airport’s international terminal.

The City Council’s Aviation Committee made it happen Tuesday by authorizing a 10-year concession agreement for a Terminal 5 restaurant to be known as Bronzeville Bar and Bites.

The “bar with small bites” concept, modeled after Bronzeville Winery at 4420 S. Cottage Grove Ave. has three partners in the joint venture:

  • Hyde Park Hospitality LLC at 45%.
  • High-Flying Foods, also at 45%. The national firm, based in San Francisco, has 40 concessions at seven U.S. airports.
  • Santa Klorina LLC will have a 10% stake. The minority-owned business is controlled by the owners of La Luna Restaurant at 1726 S. Racine Ave. in Pilsen.

Amber Ritter, managing deputy commissioner and chief commercial officer for the city’s Department of Aviation, said the “very cool, bar-in-the-round” will be strategically located at what she called the terminal’s “focal point” — part of the expanded concourse known to airport insiders as the “elbow.”

“One of the things we’re most excited about with this concept is bringing the neighborhoods into the airport,” Ritter told the Aviation Committee.

“We really try to focus on bringing Chicago into our airports with our concessions. … But a lot of times, it’s Chicago concepts that are downtown [or] in other areas of the city,” she said.

Now, Terminal 5 travelors “will be able to experience a bit of our Bronzeville neighborhood.”

Started two years ago with a grant from the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund devised by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Bronzeville Winery has come a long way in a very short time — with 50 jobs and 200,000 people in foot traffic.

The expanded international terminal at O’Hare Airport.

An expanded international terminal at O’Hare Airport adds 10 new gates, with new food offerings and other improvements.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Cecilia Cuff, who runs Bronzeville Winery, said she feels “really blessed” to work with and learn from a partner as experienced as Hyde Park Hospitality.

“Their journey coming as operators on the same level as we were to now being in the airport business was really insightful. … Of all the people who we could work with or have the opportunity to lend our name to and know that they would carry out our mission — we felt that was the right partnership,” she said. “And we hope that it’s just a start.”

Santa Klorina’s Carina Sanchez said she and her co-workers “always had our sights set on trying to do something” at O’Hare.

“This was the perfect opportunity to get our feet wet,” Sanchez said. “We’ll be helping with marketing and training. … What we’re really getting out of it is learning from two other companies that have been doing it for years. They’re going to be passing down their knowledge and their know-how.”

In 12 years, Hyde Park Hospitality has grown from a single restaurant in Hyde Park — Park 52 — to “north of 1,000” employees in 20 airports, said President and CEO Marc Brooks.

“Really excited about this opportunity. Not only are we bringing jobs from the community into the airport, but we’re bringing an inner-city concept from the 4th Ward to the airport.”

Plus, “This is a minority-led transaction, which is hard to do in this industry,” Brooks said. “We’re sharing the wealth, building more wealth and creating jobs.”

The record 55% participation by minority and disadvantaged businesses was not enough to satisfy Ald. Jason Ervin (28th).

“Why is it that this group could not do the whole thing themselves?” Ervin asked.

Brooks noted the “capital-intensive” business requires investing $1,500 to $2,000 per square foot up front. That’s $2 million for a 1,000-square-foot restaurant.

“Although we would love to say we want to take the entire thing, we look at spreading risk. We want to bid on multiple concepts in the future. So … we brought in a partner who we’ve worked with for the last, almost decade in High-Flying Foods,” Brooks said.

“As we look at expanding, we want to hold some capital back so that, when we look at future opportunities which we understand will be forthcoming, we want to have some dry powder to bid on similar types of deals, as opposed to going 100% on this,” he said.

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