What happens to the establishment of a closed restaurant?

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Ideally, the decor, or at least the most valuable pieces underneath, will find a new home. These are usually auctioned as well, but many are purchased by private collectors rather than other restaurants. When Chicago Joe’s, a staple of the Windy City’s North Side, closed in April 2022 after 33 years in business, the task of selling its decor fell to auctioneer Randy Donley. He told that Chicago Sun Times that their target buyers were “longtime customers, friends and family” and emphasized the importance of keeping the restaurant’s history alive in the community. Items auctioned included sports memorabilia, light fixtures from the 1920s and even parts of the restaurant’s oak bar.

Ultimately, nearly 300 people bid for the establishment of Chicago Joe, showing how a community’s love for their restaurants can help preserve their legacy long after closure. The night’s grand prize was the Chicago Joe’s neon sign, which sold for $32,450 (via Grants Lounge). But unfortunately, not all restaurants get the auction treatment when they close. In May 2020, at the height of the pandemic restrictions, The village sun released photos from the closure of Manhattan’s Soho Room showing stacks of chairs and benches left in a dumpster. It’s a stark contrast to Chicago Joe’s, which – although it’s closing its doors – is maintaining its community presence today and well into the future.

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