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Volunteers restore power at Captain’s Hard Time’s following burglary

Captain's Hard Time Dining, 436 E. 79th St., on Thursday afternoon, May 17, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

When Captain’s Hard Time Dining was burglarized late Tuesday, the owners  — Josephine “Mother” Wade and her son Victor Love — thought it might be the end of the Chatham neighborhood institution.

But through an “outpour of support” from the community and a donation of materials and labor from a local union, the historic restaurant is scheduled to open on time at 8 a.m. Friday.

“Today is a good day,” said Love, 54, while standing outside the restaurant Thursday afternoon as members of the Chicago chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local 134, worked on replacing copper wiring and hardware that was damaged during the burglary.

About 8:40 a.m. Wednesday, a non-emergency 311 call was placed from the restaurant — known locally as Josephine’s Cookin’ — reporting that the power wasn’t working, according to Chicago Police. It was later discovered that someone had cut and stolen copper wiring from the business sometime overnight.

Surveillance footage provided by Love shows someone approach shortly before 10:30 p.m. Tuesday the restaurant at 436 E. 79th St. That person is then seen scaling the building with a ladder and wire cutters in hand.

Love said the business –– which lost all its food when the refrigerators lost power –– never encountered similar incidents since its opening nearly 30 years ago.

“This place is an institution. People come here for counseling, for advice, a lot of political ambitions and careers have been launched out of this restaurant, so it means a lot to the community that we’re here,” he said. “For them to come and return the favor like they’re doing with this outpour of support… It’s just a blessing.”

Donald Finn, the business manager and financial secretary of IBEW Local 134, said the electrical work the union was providing to the restaurant — free of charge — would’ve cost anywhere between $12,000 and $15,000.

“Mother Wade has done so much for the community here, and for someone to come and harm her business and harm her — it was a no-brainer for us to come out here and help,” Finn said.

IBEW is a member of the Chicago Federation of Labor, which has an ownership stake in the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Reader.

Love didn’t immediately tell Wade that the union was helping to turn the lights back on, keeping Friday’s opening a surprise.

When he eventually called to tell her, Love said, “She just started crying, she lost it. It was a tearjerker.”

Business at the historic restaurant has ebbed in recent years. In 2015, Wade said foot traffic could no longer support her longtime practice of hiring teens from the community to bolster her summer staff, and said she worried the restaurant’s closure may be imminent.

“Our friends and neighbors are coming from out of the woodwork, calling and texting, we’ve got people dropping off checks and cards, doing whatever they can do,” Love said.

“But we’re not going to let the enemy win like that, so we’re going to keep fighting and continue (Mother Wade’s) legacy right here on 79th Street,” he added. “Better days are ahead.”

Contributing: Luke Wilusz and Lizzie Schiffman Tufano

Workers with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134 replace copper wiring and hardware that was damaged during a burglary at Captain’s Hard Time Dining, 436 E. 79th St., on Thursday afternoon, May 17, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times