Is a neighborhood by another identify nonetheless the identical neighborhood — and can altering its identify change what occurs there?
That’s a query that arose after the Northalsted Enterprise Alliance introduced in September it will not use “Boystown” in its advertising and marketing of the neighborhood. The alliance, which contains companies within the East Lakeview neighborhood stretching alongside Halsted Avenue between Barry Avenue and Irving Park Street, carried out an eight-week survey of almost 8,000 folks over the summer time to find out if these residing in or visiting the LGBTQ enclave felt excluded by the identify Boystown. The survey got here after a petition circulated in July calling out systemic racism, sexism, and transphobia within the neighborhood.
When the survey outcomes have been public, many individuals thought that the neighborhood’s identify would change, however, to be clear, the enterprise alliance hasn’t advocated for an official renaming: It has solely mentioned it will cease utilizing Boystown when advertising and marketing the neighborhood’s occasions and companies. Boystown has been a extensively accepted nickname for this portion of Lakeview since across the early ’80s, however it has by no means been the official neighborhood identify.
However does that matter? Will the alliance’s change cease folks from calling the world Boystown, and can it have an effect on whether or not folks patronize native companies?
Whereas 80 % of survey respondents say they didn’t really feel unwelcome by the Boystown identify and 58 % favored retaining the identify intact, the alliance nonetheless felt that by not taking a step to be extra inclusive, it might alienate part of the inhabitants that doesn’t establish as “boys,” thereby leaving them feeling unwelcome in what has been often called “Chicago’s Proudest Neighborhood.”
“I feel it illustrates that we have to take heed to the neighborhood and proceed to vary,” says Micah Hilgendorf, who owns the North Finish and Fortunate Horseshoe Lounge. “I’m glad the decision to acknowledge it wasn’t a reputation for everyone was heard, and I hope we are able to reply to issues like this sooner or later as shortly.”
Hilgendorf, like different restaurant and bar house owners within the space, doesn’t really feel the advertising and marketing adjustments will have an effect on his enterprise. The truth is, he thinks the Boystown identify doesn’t have a lot affect on his success.
“The North Finish figuring out as a homosexual bar didn’t deter prospects from coming in,” Hilgendorf says. “The straight of us who discovered themselves there — whether or not that was the primary place with seats or the closest rest room on the best way again from a Cubs sport — ended up staying and having time.”
A blended crowd
Franco Gianni not solely owns Wooden, a well-liked New American restaurant on Halsted identified for its shareable plates and high quality cocktails, however he’s additionally lived within the neighborhood for 22 years. He principally refers back to the neighborhood as Boystown when touring.
“Individuals from outdoors of Chicago confer with the world as Boystown,” Gianni says. “That’s how they understand it and discover it after they come to Chicago from one other metropolis.”
Gianni says his clientele is pretty blended, which he feels displays the neighborhood’s demographics during the last couple of a long time — they usually’re nonetheless coming in to eat and drink.
“I’ve seen a large combine of individuals whereas residing right here for 22 years,” he says. “I don’t suppose the identify deterred folks within the LGBTQ group from being right here.”
That sentiment is shared by Rose Pohl, who since 1978 has co-owned the Closet — a well-liked queer bar — with Judi Petrouski. On account of its location on Broadway, simply a few blocks east of Halsted, the Closet shouldn’t be a part of the Northalsted Enterprise Alliance. However folks nonetheless name that space Boystown.
“If we modify it to Northalsted, it’s nonetheless going to be Boystown,” Pohl says. “With all the issues we have now within the homosexual group proper now, like [the GOP] attempting to remove homosexual marriage, that is the very last thing we’d like to consider.”
Stu Zirin, together with his enterprise associate, John Dalton, owns D.S. Tequila Company and used to personal the now-closed Minibar. Zirin additionally sits on the board of the enterprise alliance. A number of years in the past, Zirin didn’t wish to use Boystown to market D.S. Tequila, as a result of, he admits, “If I needed to get the straight guys from Wrigleyville to return watch a sport, I didn’t know the way comfy they’d be.” He now says that angle has modified.
“The tradition has modified,” Zirin says. “Individuals accepted the identify.” That mentioned, as a board member — and as a Halsted strip enterprise proprietor who early on employed trans folks at D.S. — he has all the time strived to be inclusive.
“We’ve all the time been open and welcoming,” Zirin says. “I’ve been discriminated in opposition to and I’d by no means discriminate.”
Greater points than a reputation
Native companies face a extra urgent challenge with the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most different hospitality companies, these on this space additionally really feel the ache of decreased capability.
“COVID is an even bigger challenge than the identify,” says Mickey Hornick, who has owned iconic vegetarian restaurant the Chicago Diner (its motto is “meat-free since ‘83”). “We do carry-out and supply, however not dine in. My workers didn’t wish to wait on prospects with masks, and we don’t blame them. We’re doing what we predict is right, however what good will it do us if we’re not there? That’s the principle factor on all of our minds. Winter is coming. It’s a really troublesome time.”