PILSEN — It was an early morning for S.K.Y. Restaurant chef-owner Stephen Gillanders, as he and a couple of employees spent hours removing graffiti from the building demanding the soon-to-open eatery "get out" of Pilsen.
Both S.K.Y., 1239 W. 18th St., and the building that houses Dusek's, Punch House and Thalia Hall, 1227 W. 18th St., were vandalized overnight. A single message to "get out" was scrawled on the Dusek's window, while the damage at S.K.Y. was much worse.
Black spray paint branding the restaurateurs as "gentrifiers" and with the message "YT ppl outta Pilsen" lined the restaurant's 18th Street-facing wall, along with another "get out" painted on the window.
Gillanders, a Filipino chef opening a restaurant named after his Korean wife, said he was upset by the graffiti and the message it carried.
He reiterated that he felt his independently owned restaurant was misunderstood by those who sought to drive him out of Pilsen.
He said he hopes to meet with business owners and the Eighteenth Street Development Corporation soon to discuss potential solutions to the issue and filed a police report about the vandalizing.
At Dusek's, a man who does maintenance work for the building surveyed the damage with a slow shake of his head. While the vandals were targeting the business owners, he was the one who would be cleaning up the mess.
Ald. Daniel Solis (25th) declined comment through a spokesman. Dusek's owner Bruce Finkelman was not immediately available for comment.
The graffiti comes one week after S.K.Y. was the subject of a live-streamed Facebook video posted by anti-gentrification activists.
As seen in the video, activists tell S.K.Y. general manager Charles Ford that the restaurant — attracted by the vibrant, already established culture of the neighborhood — contributes indirectly to rising rent prices, which pushes out poor residents who have nurtured the community for decades.
"You've inserted yourself into a community that doesn't want you, without talking to us first," one activist says of the restaurant. "It's national news that Pilsen is fighting gentrification, and you still" came here.
The exchange ended when Ford, who said he felt "berated" by the group, called police, although no threats of violence can be heard on the video.
On Monday, ChiResists activists posted a statement elaborating on the incident.
Anti-gentrification messages are nothing new to Pilsen businesses. In 2015, Bow Truss Coffee, 1641 W. 18th St. was vandalized five times in a single month.
Signs and stickers posted at the now-closed coffee shop read: "Pilsen is not for sale," "White people out of Pilsen!" and "Fresh Roasted Gentrification Served here."