Vandals target patio flowers at Chicago restaurants

Chicago's outdoor-cafe ordinance mandates that 50% of the fencing around a patio be furnished with live plants. But some shop owners are having a hard time keeping the greenery safe from vandals this year.

Al Rose arrived at his coffee shop, Kopi A Traveler's Café in Andersonville, one morning in June to discover plants yanked out and thrown against a wall, leaving dirt and flower parts strewn on the sidewalk.

Vandalism isn't a surprise — experience has taught him to use inexpensive flowers — "but it's rarely been this early in the year, and they've not been this violently destroyed before," he says.

The patio at Letizia's Natural Bakery, along with a handful of other businesses on Division Street in Wicker Park, was hit in June. Fabio Sorano, whose mother, Letizia, opened the bakery 12 years ago, once used thorny plants to discourage tampering but switched to petunias when the vandalism stopped several years ago.

"This year, somebody's doing it, and I don't know why," Mr. Sorano says.

The Chicago Police Department does not separate indoor and outdoor reports of criminal damage to property, so it's difficult to count reports. But Randi Kowal has taken steps to protect the greenery outside Little Threads, her children's clothing store in Roscoe Village. In past years, thieves made off with smaller planters; now she uses heavy, four-foot-tall ones.

Still, passersby stub out cigarettes or deposit beer bottles in the planters.

"I don't know whether it's juveniles or drunks rolling out of restaurants at the late hours, but it's unacceptable," says Mary Markarian, executive director of the Roscoe Village Chamber of Commerce. "Them and the graffiti guys — please, get a job."
from Chicago Business

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