Small business owners Monday night attacked a proposed city ordinance to regulate employee work schedules and won agreement from the Human Services Committee to table the measure for a month.

Amy Morton, owner of the downtown restaurants LeTour and The Barn Steakhouse, said, “We all desperately believe that workers need to be treated fairly,” but the city is bogging businesses down “with so much red tape.”

“To have all these insane restrictions put on small businesses” especially in a time of economic strain is “the farthest thing” from what the city needs, Morton added.

With all the vacancies downtown, “small businesses need more support from the city, rather than more restrictions,” she said.

Chris Birkeinshaw.

Chris Birkinshaw, CEO of Aloha Poke, which has one of its three restaurants in the Chandler’s building downtown, said that as a result of hiring issues caused by the pandemic, the future for restaurants will be “fewer, more highly paid, more highly skilled employees.”

He added that when Chicago implemented its fair workweek ordinance the result was an absurd blizzard of paperwork for restaurant managers.

“Its a very challenging time to consider imposing this upon businesses in Evanston,” Birkinshaw said.

Julie Matthei.

Julie Matthei, co-owner of Hewn Bakery on Central Street, said small business owners are in the trenches, not the ivory tower. “You see the owners working side-by-side with employees.” she added. “We care about our business and our staff.”

Matthei asked why the city hadn’t reached out to small business owners and employees to discuss the issue before proposing the ordinance.

Creating a so-called “fair workweek” ordinance was first discussed at an Economic Development Committee meeting last May, but Mayor Daniel Biss conceded that he didn’t reach out to any business representatives to discuss the proposal until “Wednesday or Thursday” of last week.

Daniel Biss.

Biss, who is listed as a sponsor of the ordinance, along with Ald. Devon Reid (8th), said he wanted to have more discussions with business owners “and provide some protection for workers that is workable and implementable for our small businesses.”

There was no mention during the meeting that any of the proponents of the ordinance had had conversations with actual workers in Evanston about the need for such a measure, but Reid did solicit testimony from a social work professor at the University of Chicago, Susan Lambert.

Lambert noted that most similar ordinances around the country have focused on much larger firms than the ones that would be impacted by the Evanston ordinance, but she claimed that the rules requiring posting work schedules further in advance can actually lower costs for businesses.

Details of the Evanston “fair workweek” proposal, and how it compares with Chicago’s ordinance, can be found in this story.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. “Creating a so-called “fair workweek” ordinance was first discussed at an Economic Development Committee meeting last May, but Mayor Daniel Biss conceded that he didn’t reach out to any business representatives to discuss the proposal until “Wednesday or Thursday” of last week…”

    If Biss had pulled this in the private sector he would have been summarily canned for gross incompetence and negligence…


    Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

  2. 1. No solicitation of comments from local business owners.
    2. No solicitation of comments from local workers.
    3. Solicitation of comments from a Social Work professor at UofC.
    4. The Mayor co-sponsored the ordinance.
    Government run amok.

  3. Excellent report. I’m glad restaurants are fighting back against regulatory overkill. I agree with Amy Morton that it’s hard enough without having an avalanche of new red tape to go through. The best recourse for a worker who feels their hours are too long is to vote with their feet by leaving a job that seems unfair. That’s what a lot of restaurant workers did during the pandemic.

    1. Indeed, to impose this now when workers seem to have plenty of leverage based on the market (which I personally think is great, in and of itself) makes absolutely zero sense.

  4. The diversity in Evanston restaurant choices is improving, adding more incentive to stay local. Please don’t screw it up by clamping down on our restaurant owners with a plethora of rules and regulations. Our nearby neighbor, Wilmette, is a good example of what’s possible when we give restauranteurs a chance!

  5. I believe that added “insane”, also “sabotaging” regulations, have been imposed by the Health Dept, regarding allowing dogs to attend restaurants offering outdoor seating.
    Although dogs in Evanston (under the control of their owners, of course) do have the opportunity to join their owners for a meal, stringent rules have been imposed, ie, obtain a permit, submit drawings as to placement of said dogs and how many allowed per restaurant! Come on now.
    Restaurant managers have capabilities and knowledge without the need for City intervention, perhaps thwarting interest by other eating establishments.
    There are other more pressing concerns, don’t you think?

  6. It is starting to become clear that Biss is not suited for this role.

    Having such a dearth of talent and baseline competence across nearly every elected role in the city and school board would be depressing if it wasn’t so alarming.

  7. Biss and company first discussed the idea in May but didn’t reach out to affected businesses until last week. I get the impression the bag tax wasn’t discussed with merchants before proposing it either.
    Is this a theme for this administration?

    1. It should never have ever see the light of day

      This mayor and council are massively out of touch with reality

  8. I tried to go to Amy Morton’s new restaurant a few nights ago. After being harassed by 4 homeless people, it just was not worth it for me. Bennison’s has the regular panhandlers in front. The time museum has cancelled their open houses and children’s programs, and a friend of mine was going to an event there and, upon leaving was hollered and followed at by a strung out 80 pound woman. These are 3 long time business owners and contributors to Evanston’s economy, cultural life, and vibrancy. We are making it impossible to patronize the establishes they have given their lives to. This City treats its businesses like garbage.

  9. I noticed that the ordinance does not apply to city workers, or workers in any other government job? Why shouldn’t they be covered as well?

    Healthcare is covered. I hope city council considers how the ordinance would effect availability of healthcare service when there is a surge in an illness that requires medical care, like covid or RSV.

  10. I would instead like to see some proposals from the administration to support small businesses better.

  11. This is insane. None of the sponsors checked with anyone even remotely connected to this issue? More “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” governing…

  12. This is simply following Chicago’s lead. And look where Chicago’s Mayor is headed, likely out the door in a few months. No original thought or leadership from our Mayor or Council. And as far as placating Reid, the Mayor and the rest of the Council are afraid of him, since he is so quick to accuse them of horrible deeds in the name of equity.

  13. Why didn’t the city consider and gather data on how these new regulations would affect businesses in Evanston? This is crazy and indicates to me that there are other agendas being served. Frankly, I think members of the city council – the mayor particularly – are paying more attention to padding their liberal political resumes for their next offices than helping Evanston be the best city on the Northshore.

    1. You are correct. Business owners were only contacted about the bag surcharge at the last minute as well.
      These folks need to do something positive with their time, rather than trying to drive businesses out of Evanston. It’s painfully obvious that neither Biss nor Reid have ever run a small business that has employees and customers/clients. Ouch!

  14. Biss is in over his head and is (obviously) ill equipped to be mayor. He approaches his mayoral role as if it were an academic exercise and as such misses the mark on almost everything. He makes up problems and then makes up solutions for the made up problems he’s concocted. Seriously. Who in the world would propose such an idea without talking to small business owners; without doing his actual homework? I know who: Daniel Biss, that’s who. Does he think this is all a joke? Does he think that his actions don’t have consequences; don’t send clear messages? The damage he is inflicting is beyond words as he clearly does not value small business as vital to the vibrancy of our town. I’m sorry I voted for this guy and I sure as heck won’t be voting for him when he runs for Jan Schakowsky’s seat.

  15. How is this for a new slogan:
    Daniel Biss- Bad For Business
    Will this help his election when he seeks to move on from Evanston?

  16. Mayor Biss has no respect for businesses. Who would treat their economic shareholders this way? He has never known what these folks have sacrificed to build their businesses and, frankly; he wouldn’t care. He gives Reid and Nieuwsma legitimacy and demoralizes business owners and degrades the town’s economy. What a sad sad state for our City, internally combusting with Reid, Nieuwsma, and Biss tending to the fire.

  17. We continue to discuss ways to thwart business opportunities in town. At the same time, we are spending money to hire consultants to advise us on how we should bolster the business community. Come folks, let’s get on the same page and stop wasting time, staff resources, and money. It’s really quite simple. Clean streets, improve safety, trim trees, empty trash cans, fix fountains and make our downtown look nice. Stop with the insane regulations that inhibit small business owners.

  18. Wilmette will be the north shore home for food and culture once this administration is finished, but at least people will still come to Evanston to smoke pot

  19. Politicians love to control others….it more addictive than heroin. If you look at the backgrounds of Biss and Reid it looks like neither of them have worked in private industry or run a business, yet I bet both of them believe they know a lot more than the business owners on what it takes to run a business.

    1. I am starting to think that my best parental action was to insist my kids work at jobs starting in their early teens that gave invaluable insight and practical problem solving skills that they did not learn in school as well as work ethics. Biss seems well intentioned but lacks the practical application of theoretical concepts. Reid is an opportunist with no work ethic.

    2. Very true, neither Biss nor Reid have ever created a single job in their lives, neither has created or operated anything whatsoever that contributed to their communities.
      But those that have done so, our local small business operators, have been openly insulted by Reid. When the no cash discussions were being held Reid said that these business owners were putting a boot down upon the throats of minorities to keep them underfoot. It was such a disparaging, insulting, racist, rude and slanderous comment to make yet nobody in government, certainly not Mayor Biss, not the committee chair, nobody called him out for it. It tells you all you need to know about the character of them both.

  20. We were in Evanston last Saturday. Stopped at a cabinet shop and paid for 1 hour parking, stayed 20 minutes. Then went to see where Le Tour was because we were planning to go there soon. We parked again and paid $ 4.00 at 3.56 pm but the machine did not give a sticker. The machine had our plate number and we were charged the $ 4.00. Went to Coralie. Came back in 40 minutes to a ticket. Good Bye Evanston !

    1. you can connect with the city on that ticket and get a refund BTW!
      I believe it is a 311 issue

      very respectfully
      manon kavesky

  21. Would be great if a small business owner runs against Biss (and Reid for that matter) in 2025 so that their voices can be heard. They’d have my vote.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *