CHICAGO — Lakeview's Panera Cares, a nonprofit cafe that asked patrons to "pay-what-you-can," closed for good Saturday afternoon.
A sign posted on the door of the restaurant, 616 W. Diversey Pkwy., announced the closure, citing the end of its lease.
The Panera Bread Foundation, which runs the nonprofit cafe, "decided that it does not make sense to renew it due to changing economics."
The space needs renovations, the sign said, and "it is not a sensible option for the Foundation."
Panera Cares opened in June 2012, and was the subject of some controversy in Lakeview and Lincoln Park. Neighbors complained the "pay-what-you-can" restaurant would draw seedy elements.
But Panera representatives said the cafe, one of five in the country, was a new sort of restaurant.
"It is a community cafe of shared responsibility. One of the goals of this charitable program is to help ensure that everyone who needs a meal gets one and to raise the level of awareness about food insecurity in the country," the company announced in a press release when the cafe opened.
The sign posted on the restaurant's window said the company was "humbled" by the community's support for the "social experiment."
"The hope was to try to make a bigger difference in specific cities by feeding people in need with dignity, raising the level of awareness about food insecurity in this country and providing a vehicle for people to help one another," the sign said.
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