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Chicago's Navy Pier To Shut Down For Months After Labor Day


Chicago's Navy Pier is one of the most iconic landmarks in the Midwest. It gets nearly 9 million visitors every year, but the pandemic has kept tourists away and forced a painful decision. Minju Park of WBEZ in Chicago has the story.

MINJU PARK, BYLINE: As an entertainment hub housing Chicago's Children's Museum, the Shakespeare Theater and bustling beer gardens, Navy Pier normally sees big crowds in the summer. Jesus Mendiola (ph) has worked on the pier for two years and says this summer is very different than last year's.

JESUS MENDIOLA: Right now it's - nobody's - there's just a few people walking. But it's all mostly vacant. I see restaurants closed, some stores closed. I've never seen this before in my life.

PARK: With pandemic restrictions, many of the piers attractions are limited or closed with minimal tourism. Navy Pier President and CEO Marilynn Gardner says that's hurt the pier's bottom line.

MARILYNN GARDNER: The attendance has been severely limited. We have only seen about 15%. So it's just been crippling not only to Navy Pier but to the 70 businesses that operate on the pier.

PARK: Farhad Meghani runs a shop selling shaved ice. And he says he's already cut his staff, and he doesn't see an alternative to closing until spring.

FARHAD MEGHANI: Going forward now and because of fall and winter - and Navy Pier is kind of very slow, so it will be very hard to survive here. I'm sure it's not easy for anyone - you know, for my employees, for everyone. But I think it was the right decision.

PARK: Pier officials project a deficit of $20 million for this year. But Gardner says she's optimistic that the closure will be temporary.

GARDNER: The pier is nearly - what? - 105 years old. It's reinvented itself so many times. It's survived war. It will survive the pandemic, no doubt. The pier and any other organizations who see themselves in this same position will come out even stronger and better than ever.

PARK: Navy Pier will shut down until spring after Labor Day.

For NPR News, I'm Minju Park.

(SOUNDBITE OF EVOCATIV'S "ECHO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Minju Park