EVANSTON, IL — A pair of downtown Evanston restaurants closed for good this week as the coronavirus pandemic's economic impact continues to reshape the city's retail landscape.
Unicorn Cafe, a bakery and coffee shop at 1723 Sherman Ave., shuttered permanently after nearly 30 years in Evanston, while La Macchina, a motorcycle-themed Italian restaurant, closed its doors after seven years at 1620 Orrington Ave.
Jessica Donnelly took over as owner of Unicorn Cafe in 2015. Even before the spread of the coronavirus in Illinois triggered emergency public health measures that have economically devastated the state's hospitality industry, Donnelly described a lack of support from city officials for locally owned, independent businesses in Evanston.
Donnelly used to believe in the municipal government's vision for the community, she told the Daily Northwestern earlier this year. But not any more.
“I feel like it’s probably the worst place for any small business to invest and succeed because there’s no support," Donnelly said. In the last two decades, Evanston has "lost [its] character and charm," she said, according to the student newspaper. She suggested city officials focus on restoring the character of downtown Evanston and consider restricting the ability of giant corporations to dominate its retail spaces.
La Macchina was founded by Marco Ferrarini and 2013 before being sold to Andrea Sappiea and Emanuele Bianchi in October 2019, The Daily reported last year. Its menu focused on authentic Italian cuisine, and last month, it began offering live jazz and romantic music three nights a week on its Orrington Avenue patio.
Patch has requested comment from representatives of both businesses. Any response received will be added here.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced more than 30 businesses to close their Evanston locations, Paul Zalmezak, the city's economic development manager, told Evanston Now, which first reported the latest closures. He has yet to respond to a query as to whether city staff have been keeping count of the number of restaurants to permanently shutter in Evanston since March.
Last month, The Stained Glass & The Cellar, closed after 20 years in Evanston. Earlier this year, Andy's Frozen Custard vacated its Evanston location after the owners of the chain decided not to renew a lease at 719 Church St.Ave.,