Last night we heard from a reader: "I had brunch at Inspiration Kitchen on Saturday and sadly found out they are closing at the end of the month. The lack of a passed state budget has put this restaurant out of business. They will be having customer appreciation events between now and July 30th. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but wanted to make everyone aware."
We wrote to Inspiration Corp. to confirm, and today we got one of the saddest press releases we can remember:
"I am writing to share the news that we at Inspiration Corporation have made the difficult decision to close our Inspiration Kitchens – Uptown social enterprise restaurant after brunch on Sunday, July 31st. I am sure that this decision will be difficult for many of the patrons who have so generously supported our first experiment in social enterprise over the last 10 years.
We are so proud of the amazing staff at the restaurant – many of whom are graduates of our Foodservice Training program – that has worked hard to serve up delicious food and superb customer experience, earning glowing reviews and universal praise.
More importantly, we have been able to assist more than 500 low-income and homeless job-seekers in finding careers in the culinary industry through our training program.
While we are closing one of our locations, we are not walking away from our commitment to serving Chicago’s most vulnerable residents. We continue to operate our Foodservice Training program at our Inspiration Kitchens – Garfield Park facility, and remain committed to using social enterprise as a vehicle to help people build new careers and brighter futures.
And we are not walking away from the Uptown community, where we have operated since 1989 when Lisa Nigro pulled her little red wagon through the streets. Inspiration Cafe, at Wilson and Broadway, will continue to serve hot meals in an atmosphere of dignity and respect to individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty, relying on more than 1,000 volunteers each year, many from the Uptown community.
Unfortunately, Inspiration Kitchens – Uptown has struggled to remain viable over the last three years as public support for individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty has diminished or disappeared.
In 2014, we lost more than $350,000 in federal funding for our Foodservice Training program in Uptown and were forced to consolidate at our west side restaurant. The following year saw cuts to funding from the State of Illinois for similar programs, culminating in an entire fiscal year without a state budget.
We can no longer justify the cost of running Inspiration Kitchens – Uptown, which as a full-service restaurant carries high fixed costs with low profit-margins.
Like many other nonprofit organizations in the state, we are struggling to meet the increasing demand for services with diminished resources, and we have been forced to make painful cuts to ensure that we are spending our limited funds on the programs that provide the greatest possible benefit for homeless and low-income Chicagoans.
As we look to the future, we are happy to report that we are already in talks with a partner to launch a new Inspiration Kitchens project in Uptown with an entirely new concept next year, so please stay tuned for updates.
In the meanwhile, we will be focusing on expanding our catering business, which is beginning to generate both net revenue for our organization and employment opportunities for our graduates. And we hope that many of our loyal patrons will continue to enjoy our food and service by using our catering for their special events or visiting Inspiration Kitchens – Garfield Park.
Thank you to all of the patrons, donors, and volunteers who have generously supported us over the years."