Chicago Marathon 2021 could mean big money for local businesses struggling from COVID-19 pandemic
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Excitement is in the air as 33,000 people from 100 different countries prepare for the Bank of Chicago Marathon this weekend.The Chicago event is the first major race to return to the U.S. since the pandemic, and it comes back with some changes.Some of those changes include having no bleachers at the finish line in Grant Park. Organizers are also limiting the field and there are 25% fewer runners than 2019. Participants are also required to be fully vaccinated or test negative for COVID within 72 hours of the race.The weekend event is getting started Saturday with the Abbott Chicago 5K race , which starts at Grant Park and goes through the Loop.This portion of the event was created to recognize and highlight the vibrant and diverse running community that comes together for the marathon."These last 18 months have really shown us how important health is," said Chris Miller, who does global marketing and external affairs for Abbott. "And at Abbott, we help make life-changing health technologies to help people live their fuller lives, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate that than with a return to racing here in Chicago ... to see thousands of people crossing the finish line today. It's amazing!"The 5K started at 8 a.m., so expect it to be a busy weekend ahead in Chicago, bringing a sense of normalcy again with the marathon returning.Street closures in the Grant Park area began on Monday with the closure of Balbo from Columbus to DuSable Lake Shore Drive at 10 a.m. Additional street closures for race day at the start/finish line area can be expected through the weekend, including:Thursday, October 7: Columbus Drive from Roosevelt to Ida B. Wells closed and reopen on Monday, October 11 at 6 a.m.Friday, October 8: Columbus Drive from Ida B. Wells to Monroe closed at 4 a.m. and reopen on Sunday, October 10 at 8 p.m.Saturday, October 9: Columbus Drive from Randolph to Monroe Street will be closed at 6 a.m. and open on October 10 at noon.All streets will fully reopen by Monday, October 11 at 6 a.m.The running of the Chicago marathon is back and there's no doubt that is good for the city but it's also good for local businesses in neighborhoods the route weaves through.Wolanza Hall says the Crab Bucket seafood restaurant she owns with her mother and soon-to-be-husband can't lose on marathon Sunday."We decided to open at 12 noon instead of 2 p.m. and I came in today to prep our popular items on the menu," said Hall.Like other local businesses, the eatery hopes to capitalize on the throng of runners and those who will cheer them on through the dozens of neighborhoods the marathon winds through."It;s fantastic to be able to help so many folks who are cheering their runners and walkers on to finish an amazing accomplishment to be able to pop in and have a mimosa or pop and have a coffee or have lunch," said Christina Hall, Greater South Loop Association.The Chicago Marathon was cancelled in 2020, but organizers say in recent years, the race has pumped in excess of $300 million in the Chicago economy.Ken Chiu of Emperor's Choice restaurant located along the marathon route on Wentwroth says the extra business would be nice."April 1st, we opened the dining room for restaurant, so hopefully marathon will bring more business," said Chiu."The new businesses and those struggling through the pandemic want to take full advantage of this opportunity. Some are extending their hours and adding staff because of the Chicago marathon.