Streeterville restaurant launches signature beer

(Published July 31, 2019)

The Signature Room, the restaurant located on the 95th floor of the former John Hancock Center, announced in July the launch of its first exclusive beer label, Top View Brew. The beer is a result of a partnership with suburban brewery Crystal Lake Brewing, currently offered exclusively at The Signature Room.

“We have been fans of Crystal Lake Brewing for quite some time—and their Beach Blonde has been a top seller for years—so partnering with them on a custom beer was a no-brainer,” said The Signature Room’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Tricia Bryant. “We hope Top View Brew will be a beverage that guests want to enjoy not just during the summer, but all year-round.

Top View Brew is a golden wheat ale with smooth malt sweetness, low bitterness and a bright lemon aroma at 4.5 percent alcohol by volume. The brew pairs well with salads, along with light fish and chicken dishes and can handle spicy foods and cut through heavier dishes. 

Fire station gets Ritz-Carlton heron statue

Streeterville’s Engine Co. 98, 202 E Chicago Ave., added an historic heron statue to their Chicago Fire Department Garden in June. 

The statue was donated after an extensive renovation by the Ritz-Carlton. The sculpture of two blue herons was previously part of the lobby fountain. Ritz-Carlton’s general manager Peter Simoncelli said the sculpture has been seen in wedding and anniversary photos dating back to 1975. The heron statue was removed during renovations to the Ritz-Carlton in 2017. 

New restaurant to open in Northwestern Memorial Hospital

The New York City-based Craveable Hospitality Group will open a new restaurant on the 18th floor of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 251 E. Huron later this year.

GreenRiver formerly occupied the space, but closed in 2018.

Craveable declined to offer any details on the new venture, but as of mid-July, the group had posted hiring notices for a head chef and staff. 

According to the hiring notice, “The property will be 200 seats with an upscale American a la carte menu, plus a large catering kitchen and events space, on the outpatient pavilion of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.“

Mayor Lightfoot, Superintendent Johnson welcome nearly 300 new, promoted officers in Navy Pier ceremony   

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Police Department (CPD) Superintendent Eddie Johnson congratulated the newest class of 196 Police Officers and 98 newly promoted chiefs, deputy chiefs, commanders, lieutenants, sergeants and evidence technicians in a July 9 ceremony at Navy Pier. 

“Today, with their graduation or promotion, our officers are not only joining or renewing their commitment to a proud community of brothers and sisters, but they’re also fulfilling a sense of duty to the city we all love,” Lightfoot said. “As they embark or continue on this journey, I want all of Chicago’s officers to know that your city will be with you every step of the way.”

The 196 new police officers graduating includes 68 percent from minority backgrounds, with 44 percent identifying as Hispanic, 16 percent African-American and 8 percent Asian-American. In addition, 31 percent of graduates are female. 

Approximately 36 percent of the officers graduated from Chicago Public Schools and 13 percent are military veterans. 

Before graduating, police recruits spent six months at the police academy and they will now begin their one-year probationary period, which includes three months of training with a field training officer and district patrol functions.

Streeterville residents celebrate Cap Streeter anniversary

In July, dozens of Streeterville residents gathered at Streeterville Pizzeria and Tap for a Run A’Ground party to celebrate the anniversary of ‘Cap’ Streeter running aground in the area. 

On July 10, 1866, Captain George Streeter ran his boat aground in Lake Michigan, in what is now Streeterville. Over the next fear years, Streeter encouraged developers and residents to dump debris in the shallow water and eventually he developed the real estate. 

Gail Spreen, a realtor with Streeterville Properties, hosted the event, and she called July 10 a neighborhood holiday. Sculptor Dennis Downes, the artist behind the Streeter statue on Grand Avenue was on hand as was Alderman Brian Hopkins, who dressed as Streeter and channeled the neighborhood founder. 

“Many fine things happened on this day,” Hopkins said. “A future alderman’s mother was born on this day.”

Navy Pier breaks ground on first pier hotel 

Developers broke ground in mid-July on the first hotel on Navy Pier. ACRON, a real estate investment firm; Maverick Hotels & Restaurants, a hotel management and development company and Navy Pier are developing the project. 

The property, scheduled to open spring 2020, will operate under the exclusive Curio Collection by Hilton, which includes more than 50 independent hotels around the world.

The new hotel will be located adjacent to Festival Hall at the eastern end of the complex. The hotel will offer 222 guest rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows that showcase views of the city’s famed skyline, Lake Michigan and the Pier. The hotel will also offer a first floor restaurant, a fitness center and a 30,000-square-foot rooftop restaurant, bar and event space.

Officials said the hotel development has already led to 600 construction jobs and is expected to create 300 permanent positions.

A Dallas Ferris wheel operator aims to break Navy Pier ride record

According to the Dallas Observer, the operator of a Dallas-based Ferris wheel aims to break the world record for longest Ferris wheel ride. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the record for the longest ride is currently held by Clinton Shepherd, a park operations manager at Navy Pier, who, in 2014, rode the Pier’s Ferris wheel for two days, eight minutes and 25 seconds. 

Now, Ferris Wheelers Backyard and BBQ in Dallas is seeking applications for anyone willing to take a longer ride. 

“We’ve put some feelers out there to see if we could get the public interested in breaking the record,” said Phillip Schanbaum, in the Dallas Observer. Schanbaum is the co-owner of Ferris Wheelers Backyard and BBQ. “We want to give ourselves a bit of a cushion on the time, so we’re going for 72 hours. We need to do a little bit more research on some of the stipulations for Guinness, but to our knowledge, there is a five-minute break per hour.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Navy Pier, Payal Patel, wished the Dallas operater all the best. 

“While Clinton Shepherd is no longer an employee at Navy Pier, we are still very proud of the world record he set on the Pier’s behalf in 2014,” Patel said. “Navy Pier extends its best wishes to the individual in Dallas seeking to set a new record for the longest ride on an amusement park attraction.”

In June the Pier got its second Guiness Book of World Records entry after its rooftop deck, Offshore opened. The size of a football field, the deck is—so far—the biggest deck in the world. 

Chicago’s Art Cows returned home in July

Two decades after Chicago’s Cows on Parade exhibit launched the international Cow Parade craze in the United States, the city’s decorative fiberglass cows were rounded up for July and set on display at Jane M. Byrne Plaza, next to the Chicago Water Tower. 

The cows were decorated by area artists and auctioned off for charity, and the parade set off a trend of copycat cities across the United States. Today, the cows are owned by various businesses and art collectors across the region, but for the 20th anniversary of the project, the Magnificent Mile Association reached out to a handful of owners who agreed to let the cows out on loan for a month as part of the “Cows Come Home” seasonal art project.  Adam Skaf, a spokesperson for the association, said August marks the 150th anniversary of the Chicago Water Tower, so pedestrians can expect to discover more than 25 five-foot models of the tower along Michigan Avenue all month long. 

Navigating drone laws may be tricky for operators in Chicago

(Published July 31, 2019)
By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff writer

It may be tempting to fly a drone downtown whether to get a bird’s eye view on the Lollapalooza crowds or to get a unique shot of the skyline, it may be impossible to do so legally. 

Chicago’s laws allow drone operators to fly their craft with a permit, but according to afficionados, getting a permit is near impossible thanks to confusing, byzantine rules. 

“All drones are restricted unless given a permit for flying,” said Anthony Guglielmi, Chief Communications Officer of Chicago Police Department. 

In addition to a permit, operators have to get permission from the property owner and in the case of Grant Park, that would be the Chicago Parks District. Without that permission and without a permit, operators face citations. 

Jeffrey Antonelli is a drone enthusiast and also a lawyer, and he believes the city’s laws wouldn’t stand up in court. Antonelli points out that since the Federal Aviation Administration regulates air space and not the city, Chicago’s air regulations would probably be thrown out if someone challenged them in court. Nevertheless, Antonelli said he doesn’t fly drones in the city.

Alan Perlman, CEO of UAV Coach, a drone training company, said the FAA classified Grant Park airspace as Class G, meaning it is uncontrolled airspace, so recreational drone pilots should be able to fly there under federal law. 

Even so, getting a permit is hard. 

Antonelli said some people have tried getting a permit from the park district and while he’s heard some success stories, he’s been unable to get one. 

“The city doesn’t have a uniform answer,” Antonelli said. 

A spokesperson for the parks district could not explain how to get a permit. 

The FAA mandates that people cannot fly drones over people or cars for safety concerns and pilots must be able to see their drone at all times and they cannot fly higher than 400 feet.

Perlman said people should first learn how to use their drone. 

“You are bringing a flying lawnmower into the air. It’s really important to have intimate understanding of how the aircraft works.” 

Meadows in the skies: A closer look at the growing, green rooftops in the city

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

High above the streets, there are fields through the city filled with wildflowers, grasses, trees and even crops.

A growing rooftop greening movement is transforming the downtown environment and, according to Molly Meyer, it’s also improving the buildings.

Meyer, CEO and founder of Omni Ecosystems, an organization that designs sustainable green infrastructure, said her firm has developed rooftop farms and prairies. She said the green trend gained steam about 15 years ago and it’s been going strong ever since.

“In the mid 2000s there were a huge number of green roofs developed,” she said.

Now, every neighborhood in the city has green roofs, mostly only observable from higher floors on neighboring buildings. But while they may be invisible to most people, they’re still important.

“The top of the McDonald’s headquarters in West Loop is a 20,000 square foot wildlife meadow,” Meyer said. “That’s an important habitat for native butterflies.”

Their green roof includes crops which the company hopes to deliver to the community. 

“At McDonald’s headquarters, as employees and visitors collaborate on the ninth floor open work space and outdoor terrace, they are standing directly under one of the premier sustainability features of the headquarters: the green roof,” McDonald’s spokesperson Anne Christensen said. “The green roof boasts a garden with food for harvest and is purifying the air in the West Loop. The garden includes buckwheat, carrots, wheat, radishes, as these items are good for promoting strong soil. Harvesting soon, we hope to partner with a community organization to help us share our crops.”

In Streeterville, Navy Pier got into the game a year ago, when it developed its new welcome center. The center, to the right of the entrance, near Polk Brother Park, features a roof sloping down to the sidewalk and as visitors walk along the south side of the building, the concrete facade gives way to a meadow, complete with two bee boxes, which are a permanent fixture in the meadow. 

Michael Thompson, an apiest and farm manager at Chicago Honey Co-op who manages the boxes for the pier, said in the few months since the boxes have been installed, the have already produced 30-40 pounds of honey. In just two bee boxes, Navy Pier is home to some 50,000 Italian bees. 

According to Savitha Chelladurai, the Navy Pier’s sustainability program manager, the pier will use the honey at various restaurants. She said the rooftop project makes good sense for the Pier. 

“The creation of a green roof at the People’s Energy Welcome Pavilion helps to mitigate heat island effects and create a cooler environment for our guests,” said Chelladurai. “In addition, the native plants used at the Pier lead to better storm-water management and require little fertilizer or chemical applicants.”

The Pier isn’t alone.

“Downtown we have nine bee locations and they’re all on roofs,” Thompson said. 

In addition to bees, Meyer said the greenspaces are habitats for birds and small insects like grasshoppers, likely dropped by birds. But the roofs offer more than an ecosystem. 

Green rooftops are growing in popularity because the city mandates new construction be “green” or energy efficient, she said, and rooftops help achieve that goal.

“There is a benefit to extending the life of the roof membrane and a green roof protects that,” she said. “And there’s the storm water benefit and energy saving benefit too.”

Besides the buildings, the rooftops also help the city. 

“It’s important to make sure the built environment gets more sustainable and resilient,” she said.

Get to know the only biplane pilot in the Air and Water Show

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

The Chicago Air and Water show may be famous for its display of high powered state-of-the art aircraft, but one airplane featured this year is not like the others. 

Chicago-based pilot Susan Dacy’s biplane is a throwback to pre-war piloting, to a time before jet engines, but her performance is no less technical and it is no less thrilling. 

Dacy, one of the pilots featured at the Chicago Air and Water Show Aug. 17-19, is one of the few female pilots in the U.S. performing in a bi-plane. But this isn’t her first Air and Water show. Dacy is a commercial pilot and, when she’s not doing tricks during her day job, she tours the country performing rolls, spins and other acrobatic tricks. She said she started in the 1990s and her decades of acrobatic performances is the realization of a goal she’s had since she was a kid and went to her first airshow.

“Of all the performances what impacted me was the biplane that flew,” she said. “It had the smoke trail and it was loud and it really excited me. I always remembered that.”

The early inspiration is reflected in Dacy’s plane, a bright red, 450 horsepower Super Stearman named Big Red. Although biplanes are among the earliest planes, the Super Stearman is a WWII-era plane, developed as a reliable craft for young pilots to learn to fly. Because of their reliability and their ubiquity, Dacy said quite a few planes were retired after the war and they flooded the civilian market.

“This type of plane trained bunches and bunches of cadets,” she said. “They made Army and Navy versions so they had gobs and gobs of these airplanes after the war. A lot of bombers and things like that were crushed up melted down and repurposed but a lot of the Stearmans luckily survived because it was determined they were good for crop dusters.”

It’s a Stearman crop duster that chases Cary Grant in “North by Northwest.”

Dacy’s plane was used in air shows before she bought it. Aside from a new engine, a new “skin” and some aileron flaps, it’s the same plane as the cadets would have piloted in training.

“It’s been a plane that’s pretty much worked its whole life,” she said. “It’s never been in a shed collecting dust.”

Later this month it will be at it again. Although the pilot schedule isn’t set until the day of the show—weather affects what planes can perform—Dacy offered a behind-the-scenes sense of what audiences can expect. Like all the other pilots, Dacy will take off from Indiana but Big Red is the only bi-plane scheduled for the day.

Dacy said audiences can expect “barnstormer-type moves,” including some twists and circles, shooting her craft high into the sky, trailing environmentally-friendly smoke before tumbling back down to earth and ending in a barrel roll.

While her performance may shock, surprise or even make audiences anxious, the one person who won’t be wowed is Dacy.

“Of course, we know what to expect, so it’s almost everything seems routine,” she said. Dacy said she’s got an exit plan in case of the worst, but said she doesn’t worry about it.

“You’re always thinking that stuff and it’s not being fatalistic but it’s just common sense,” she said. “But my airplane is so reliable, and of course I make sure maintenance is performed regularly”

Navy Pier Ferris wheel offers unique look at the city

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger

Staff writer

The Navy Pier Ferris wheel is an iconic sight for tourists and Chicagoans.

Standing nearly 200 feet high, the Centennial Wheel is a behemoth, weighing 992,080 pounds, powered by 8 motors with over 10,000 bolts connecting the machine together. 

Devonne Phams, Senior Guest Experience Manager, and his staff are responsible for making sure riders have a great experience.

Phams has been with Navy Pier for 6 years, starting as an attraction attendant and working through the ranks to be promoted to Senior Guest Experience Manager. Part of his role is managing the staff who run the Ferris wheel, who ensure that guests have “a safe but fun time.”

Safety is a big part of their work, he said. Each morning, Phams’ team checks the Centennial Wheel to make sure everything is operational. They open and close doors, check the video screens and PA systems (in case a guest needs to contact the operator), as well as making sure the 42 gondolas are clean. 

On a good day during the week, Phams said they get close to 3,500 people on the Ferris wheel, but the number rises to 8,000 during the weekend. It can hold up to 420 people at a time with 8-10 people per gondola. 

The Centennial Wheel operates year round; with air conditioning for the hot summer months and heat for the cooler months. The Ferris wheel team monitors weather conditions, whether it is ice accumulation in the winter or thunderstorms. For safety precautions, the Ferris wheel is shut down if lightning strikes within 5 miles of Navy Pier.

At night, the Ferris wheel staff closes windows that guests may have opened during the day, collect and turn in any lost items, as well as cleaning the gondolas. They lock and secure the Ferris wheel for the night. And the cycle begins the next day.

Phams’ favorite part of the job is the people.

“We get people from all over the world,” he said. “They are totally amazed by the new Ferris wheel itself.” 

A particular moment that stands out for Phams is the annual Camp One Step. A nonprofit dedicated to provide educational and fun experiences for children with cancer brings a group of  kids to Navy Pier to ride the Ferris wheel. Each year, they put together a campfire song for Phams. “It’s really awesome,” he said.

Phams invites people to check out the Ferris wheel.

The view from the top is phenomenal. There’s nothing like it in the city,” he said.

Golden Knights, Blue Angels headline 61st annual event by the lake

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff Writer

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights and the U.S. Navy Parachute Team Leap Frogs will headline the 61st annual Chicago Air and Water Show, set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 17-18.

Last year’s show drew an estimated 1 million people, said Mary May, Marketing and Communications, Public Relations Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for the City of Chicago.

The show will also feature the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team The Red Arrows from the United Kingdom. Nineteen other groups will be performing with nine military demonstrations and ten civilian teams. 

This year’s special guests, the RAF Red Arrows have performed nearly 5,000 times in 57 countries since 1965, according to a City of Chicago news release. The Red Arrows will perform in more than 20 displays in the U.S. and Canada on its first North American tour in 11 years, according to the Red Arrows website. 

To get the Red Arrows’ Hawk T1 jets to North America, they will be flown over three days, the tour website said. They will have 12 Hawk aircrafts and 1 Atlas A400M RAF transport aircraft. The tour will include 108 people, “including pilots, engineers and support staff.”

A regular of the Air and Water Show, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels includes 16 officers. The Commanding Officer, known as the “Boss” who flies the number 1 jet, is required to “have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight-hours and have commanded a tactical jet squadron,” according to the Blue Angels website. Officers in jets 2 through 8 must “have an aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours.” 

The U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights was founded in 1959 but received its name in 1962 due to all the gold medals the Knights had won, according to the Golden Knights website.

“The team has earned the U.S. Army 2,148 gold, 1,117 silver, and 693 bronze medals in national and international competition,” the site said. “Team members have also broken 348 world records.” The Golden Knights currently have nearly 95 men and women, including four parachute units and five aircrafts, according to their website. They perform annually in over 100 events.

CPD: Gang taunts led to Navy Pier stabbings

(Published July 8, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson on Monday said two stabbings that happened shortly after 10 p.m. July 4 at Navy Pier were gang-related and the suspects are still at large. The victims have not been cooperating with police, Johnson said.

“The stabbings resulted from some gang-affiliated people taunting each other,” he said. “We have ideas of who the individuals were, but the victims were very uncooperative.”

A 14-year-old boy, a 15-year-old boy and a 30-year-old man were stabbed and police continue searching for two suspects. The victims were not involved in a fight that happened outside the security check, Johnson said.

Johnson was speaking at a news conference covering the violence across the city over the Independence Day holiday, from July 3 through July 7. Johnson said during that period officers picked up 199 illegally-owned guns, there were 42 shooting incidents and six murders. Englewood had the most shootings.

Johnson added police arrested 84 people for weapons violations. He reminded the public there is no reason to own an illegal weapon.

“There’s no excuse for carrying illegal guns in the city,” he said. “We can’t let gangs and guns overpower the community and the city of Chicago.”

Over a dozen people wounded after panic when fireworks mistaken for gunshots at Navy Pier

(Published July 5, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

According to Chicago police, three people were stabbed outside of Navy Pier Thursday night and over a dozen others were trampled, fearing reports of gunfire during the Fourth of July Fireworks display.

Another victim, a 16-year-old-boy, suffered a puncture wound from an overturned table as he ran from the scene.

The three stabbing victims included a 14-year-old boy, a 15-year-old boy and a 30-year-old man.

All four people were stabilized at area hospitals.

According to Chicago Police Sgt. Rocco Alioto, the violence erupted sometime just after 10 p.m. when someone threw fireworks into the crowd at Navy Pier and the crowd mistook the fireworks for gunfire. Some 17 people were injured in the stampede, though no fatalities were reported.

No arrests have been made and police are still looking for two male suspects.

Pets need regular teeth brushing to stay healthy

(Published June 30, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger

Staff writer

Most people know they need to take care of their own teeth but few realize dogs and cats also need dental care.

“If we don’t brush our teeth for a day, we get that film on our teeth, that film is plaque,” explained Dr. Jennifer Stecher of Good Vets, 227 E. Grand Ave. “If an animal doesn’t their brush teeth, they naturally create plaque. In time that plaque forms into tartar.” 

In addition to tartar being bad for a dog’s teeth, it’s bad for the rest of the animal as well. 

“Any time we have animals that have periodontal disease, everytime that animal swallows, that means the bacteria is going from (their) mouth into their stomach,” Stecher said. That can cause gastrointestinal issues or even affect other organs such as  the heart, kidney and liver.

Stecher recommends brushing a pet’s teeth at least every other day. 

“Brushing is the best thing you can do for your dog and cat at home,” said Dr Gonsky of West Loop Veterinary Care, 815 W. Randolph. “Most dogs and cats can be trained to accept toothbrushing very well, and can look forward to it.” 

West Loop Veterinary Care is working on a video  to help pet owners learn how to brush their pets’ teeth.

While there are numerous products available, such as dental chews, Stecher said they are not a replacement for tooth brushing. Dental chews may not reach all the teeth since animals tend to favor one side of the mouth for chewing, she said. 

In addition to brushing teeth, both doctors recommend having the pet’s teeth examined by a veterinarian. A veterinarian can help advise the owner decide  the best course of action for their pet’s dental well being.

Full dental procedures,  necessary to properly clean the gum line, polish teeth and get X-rays, require the animal to  have anesthesia, Stecher said. 

“it’s more dangerous when they are fully awake,” she said. “It’s the safest way to do a dental procedure.”

“I think pet owners need to know that their pets’ oral health is as important as their skin health, joint health or any other system in their body,” Gonsky said. “Our pets don’t have the capacity to tell us and the signs of discomfort may be very subtle. Regular communication and examination with the vet is the key to helping keep your whole dog or cat and their mouth healthy.”

Photo credit: Krista Scarlavai

Cookie DŌ pop up comes to Navy Pier

(Published June 30, 2019)

By Angela Gagnon – Staff Writer

New York’s popular edible cookie dough has come to Chicago. 

Cookie DŌ Confections set up a small stand at the base of the Navy Pier Ferris wheel so Chicagoans and visitors can enjoy edible cookie dough treats through Labor Day. 

Ryan Manley, a filmmaker from Atlanta, wanted to check out the trending treat in New York, and he was pleasantly surprised to find the pop up Cookie DŌ kiosk at Navy Pier while visiting Chicago to see “Hamilton.” 

“It’s really good,” Manley said. “I thought it would be small, but it’s very filling. I’m glad I got to try it here.”

The abbreviated menu features the raw Cookie DŌ, cookie dough ice cream, cookie sandwiches and ice cream “SanDos.” 

“We use a pasteurized egg product and a heat-treated ready-to-eat flour which make all of our desserts safe to consume just as they are—unbaked,” founder Kristen Tomlan said. 

Cookie DŌ ships nationwide. To purchase  flavors outside of what is served at the pop up, visit cookiedonyc.com. 

The Cookie DŌ pop up at Navy Pier is open Sundays-Thursdays from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-midnight, weather permitting.

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