> Location: Chicago
A five-star review from Time Out didn’t help this place survive the pandemic. The publication described it as an “Italian-influenced Korean-American eatery” and a “lively ecosystem” with a “boisterous bar.” In addition to the problems caused by the pandemic, chef-proprietor Jennifer Kim had grown “pessimistic that operators can ethically run a restaurant under current capitalistic conditions,” according to Eater. The restaurant served a takeout Farewell Menu until it turned out the lights on Sept. 12.
> Location: Chicago
This well-loved West Loop restaurant — hailed by the Chicago Tribune as “one of Chicago’s greatest restaurants” — was opened 22 years ago by Paul Kahan, who has since become one of the city’s best-known chef-restaurateurs. (His other places include Avec, Publican, and Big Star). Blackbird’s intimate size and layout made social distancing impossible, and the restaurant announced on its website that “we have made the very difficult decision to close our doors.”
Louisiana: K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen
> Location: New Orleans
The demise of the legendary K-Paul’s in mid-July is one of the most significant of all COVID-related restaurant closures. This highly influential Cajun establishment was opened in 1979 by chef Paul Prudhomme and his wife, Kay, and it soon became a Crescent City bucket-list destination, with lines forming nightly outside. With such vividly flavored dishes as the iconic blackened redfish, K-Paul’s ignited a nationwide craze for Cajun cooking. Kay died of cancer in 1993 and Prudhomme passed away in 2015, but the place stayed open under the chef’s niece, Brenda Prudhomme, and her chef husband, Paul Miller.
After several coronavirus-mandated closings and reopenings earlier this year, though, they issued a statement on July 13 “regretfully announcing permanent closure of K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen.” Miller explained to NOLA.com that “The business has been bleeding through this, and you can only bleed so much before you have to stop it.”
Maine: Reno’s Family Restaurant
> Location: Caribou
“People from Aroostook County and beyond have been enjoying Reno’s Family Restaurant’s one-of-a-kind pizzas for over half a century,” enthused an article in The County in January. Co-owner Danny Corriveau added that he hoped to continue running the 55-year-old place for the next decade. Then came COVID-19. The Corriveau family posted a notice on Reno’s website, announcing that the restaurant would close on Sept. 30. “Face masks, plexiglass shields, it’s just not what Reno’s was,” Corriveau told WAGM-TV.
Maryland: Sunset Restaurant Lounge
> Location: Glen Burnie
From its origins as a nightclub, complete with slot machines, in 1960, this establishment in a Baltimore suburb evolved into a popular full-service restaurant, known for its crab soup and other local specialties. In late August, the owners announced on their Facebook page that they would close permanently on Sept. 30. “We anticipated celebrating our 60th anniversary this year but instead we were met with unprecedented hardship due to the COVID Pandemic,” they wrote. “Like many other family owned businesses, restrictions and the regulations imposed by the restaurant industry have driven us to make this decision.”