Weather Updates

Protests aside, Friday a quiet day downtown thanks to NATO

Updated: July 1, 2012 12:03PM

Besides the throngs of protesters and police officers roaming Chicago’s streets, the city was kind of a ghost town Friday.

What morning rush? There wasn’t one. Travelers reported smooth sailing on the expressways, some touting their commute was cut in half.

And on trains, Metra reported noticeably lower ridership on every line, while the CTA said ridership was “slightly lighter” than a normal Friday.

At Rudy’s Bar and Grille near Millennium Park, just six customers watched the midday Crosstown Classic from the bar.

“Its been a slower Friday. A lot of our regulars — some are still here and some actually didn’t come downtown today,” manager Kris Jares said. “Usually on Fridays at this time, especially during a Cubs-Sox game, my bar would be full.”

Several blocks down at the usually bustling Elephant and Castle bar and restaurant, a waitress and a hostess watched as two customers drank at the barren bar.

“We’re usually still full until about 3 o’clock and especially on Fridays. Fridays are always busy,” Jennifer Mahood, 25, a waitress at the bar said. “It’s been a pretty dead ghost town all day long.”

Numerous downtown businesses already made the decision to close Friday and Monday to avoid complications from the NATO Summit. And many others gave some or all of their employees the option to work from home for the next four days.

At least one private equity firm within a River North building closed for business after receiving word NATO protesters might be targeting the building Friday afternoon.

Employees at 300 N. LaSalle, which is home to several private equity firms including international law firm Kirkland & Ellis, were notified by security via e-mail Friday morning that the building might be a “specific target” for protests in the afternoon.

The building wasn’t closed, but at least one company — Waud Capital Partners — told employees to go home.

The downtown emptiness meant the day was excruciatingly slow for car hiker James Roundtree. He parks cars in a five-story garage on Randolph Street.

“Normally during the week, we really fill up. Today, because of NATO, I think people just got scared away,” Roundtree said.

Roundtree is in charge of two floors of the garage: “There is no one up there. Nothing up there.”

At the MetraMarket, a food court within the Ogilvie Transportation Center, business was slow on Friday for Wisma, an organic food vendor.

Manager Mary Sample was prepping to close down her stand through Monday because NATO-related road closures won’t guarantee her organic foods would be delivered.

The upside to it all: “It took me about 40 minutes to drive from Gurnee today. That never happens,” Sample said.

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