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Rick Bayless Closes Restaurants Thursday In Solidarity With Immigrants

By Stephanie Lulay | February 15, 2017 6:37pm | Updated on February 16, 2017 6:04pm
 Chef Rick Bayless is closing four restaurants in Chicago Thursday as immigrant workers plan
Chef Rick Bayless is closing four restaurants in Chicago Thursday as immigrant workers plan "A Day Without Immigrants."
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Frontera Grill

DOWNTOWN — Chef Rick Bayless closed four restaurants Thursday as his workers joined a "A Day Without Immigrants" in Chicago. 

Bayless' move to close Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Xoco and Fonda Frontera Thursday came as immigrants across the U.S. stayed home from workplaces and classes Thursday in an effort to show how important immigrants are to America's economy. 

The celebrity chef said the closure is out out of respect for his staff's vote to support Thursday's immigrant civil actions in Chicago and elsewhere. About 200 employees work at the four restaurants, a representative confirmed. 

RELATED: Downtown Streets Closed For 'Day Without Immigrants'' March

"For three decades, we’ve been a place that has welcomed, respected and promoted our immigrant staff, friends and restaurant family," Bayless wrote in a statement. 

Cruz Blanca and Leña Brava, Bayless' newest West Loop restaurants, remained open Thursday, and 10 percent of revenue will be donated to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

The host stands at each of Bayless' closed restaurants called guests to notify them of the closure and offered to accommodate them at Leña Brava or rebook them for a future date. About 50 reservations were canceled. 

"Some people were disappointed but overall everyone was very understanding and supportive," a Bayless spokesman said Thursday evening. "There were a couple guest who were implacable, but overall it's been overwhelmingly positive."

Some Pilsen and Little Village restaurants and businesses also closed Thursday. 

Chef Alfonso Sotelo, a Bayless alum, will also close his 5 Rabanitos Restaurante and Taqueria, 1758 W. 18th St. Nuevo Leon Bakery, 1634 W. 18th St.; Creperia Nuevo Leon, 1636 W. 18th St.; Taqueria El Mezquite, 1756 W. 18th St.; Ram's Restaurant, 2302 S. Blue Island Ave.; La Parada en Pilsen, 2059 W 21st St.; Azul 18, 1236 W. 18th St.; Lupita's Restaurant, 1723 S. Ashland Ave.; Taqueria Los Comales, 1544 W. 18th St.; Memo's Hot Dogs, 1447 W. 18th St.; Coyotes Restaurant, 1451 W. 18th St.; Trino's Pizzeria, 1013 W. 18th St.; Paleteria El Sabor, 1639 W. 18th St.; Cafe Monsivais, 1637 W. 18th St.; Doña Torta, 2152 W. Cermak Road; and Benny's Pizza, 1244 W. 18th St. in Pilsen, will also close Thursday, owners confirmed.

A sign on the door of Paleteria El Sabor, 1639 W. 18th St. in Pilsen. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay] 

La Vaca Margarita Bar, at 1160 W. 18th St. in Pilsen, also closed Thursday, the restaurant announced on Facebook Wednesday night. 

Fogata Village, 1820 S. Ashland in Pilsen, also closed Thursday. 

BomBon closed its family-owned 18th Street and 26th Street bakeries, owner Laura Perea confirmed. 

"My whole staff asked me not to work. There are a lot of Latinos in the city who want to be part of the movement," said Perea, whose bakeries are located in two majority Latino neighborhoods. "As an owner, it's not the best feeling, but I have to understand where they are coming from. I have to support them." 

Gadget Rehab, 1549 W. 18th St.; Pilsen Law Center, 1545 W. 18th St.; and Eighteenth Street Development Corporation, Pilsen's chamber of commerce, also closed in solidarity with immigrant workers Thursday, said executive director Alex Esparza. 

"It's a bigger issue than just, 'We're being targeted,'" said Esparza, who was born in Mexico. "When you talk about race, you're talking about me." 

RELATED: Pete's Fresh Markets Close Thursday For 'Day Without Immigrants'

Jaime di Paulo, executive director of the Little Village Chamber of Commerce, said concerned Little Village business owners were calling him Wednesday for advice, but he urged the businesses to stay open. 

"We don't want to hurt Hispanic businesses," said di Paulo, who represents businesses on bustling 26th Street. "If you are going to spend your money, spend your money with a Hispanic business Thursday." 

Also Thursday, Arise Chicago and other immigrant rights groups protested deportations in Union Park and marched through the Near West Side to Federal Plaza. 

Bayless, who was flying home from a staff trip to Mexico Wednesday night, urged fans to participate in the walkout Thursday or make contributions to a number of immigrants rights groups, including: the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, American Civil Liberties Union, Immigrant  Youth Justice League, Sanctuary Restaurants, National Immigration Law Center, National Organization for Women and Southern Poverty Law Center. 

"A Day Without Immigrants" actions are also planned in cities including Philadelphia, Washington, Boston and Austin, Texas, according to the Associated Press.