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Lakeview Residents Complain "Pay-What-You-Can" Panera Attracts Homeless

By Samantha Abernethy in Food on Oct 3, 2012 9:20PM

Lakeview residents say the Panera Cares "Pay-What-You-Can" Café is attracting the sort of people they don't like in their affluent North Side neighborhood: Those who need it. They say the Panera Cares is to blame for an increase in crime in the neighborhood and one resident told CBS, “It’s just kind of scary. A crowd of guys won’t let you through a sidewalk. That’s invasive.”

The Panera Cares Café is a non-profit cafe that relies on shared responsibility. It has no fixed prices and a series of free food and work-for-food programs. Regular Panera prices are listed, but as suggested donations. The Lakeview location at Diversey and Clark opened in June and is the fourth of its kind in the nation.

Another resident pointed out that this is just affluent neighbors complaining about riff-raff. CBS writes:

Bruce Beal has lived in Lakeview for 12 years as well. He says the neighborhood is safe and a few outspoken neighbors are just worried about property value.

“I don’t see any more of that now than I saw before at all,” he said. “Before it was all relatively affluent neighbors and now it’s a mix of affluent neighbors and folks that aren’t as affluent.”

Chicago Police say there is no way to tie the opening of a restaurant to an increase in crime, and that's probably because crime in the Lakeview-Lincoln Park area is negligible compared to other parts of the city. That uptick in crime in Lakeview has been a widely discussed issue since video of an assault surfaced in July 2011. That's nearly a year before the Panera Cares opened.

The homeless are yet another "type" that Lakeview doesn't like having around. In September last year, residents blocked a Hookah bar at Belmont and Southport after a meeting full of comments smacking of prejudice against those of Middle Eastern descent, such as saying it "will bring a certain element to the neighborhood.” In 2009, Lakeview residents were complaining about black youth spending time in Boystown saying, “Boystown is supposed to be our safe haven.” Why stop there when a Boystown bar can also ban women?

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said the Panera Cares concept "is a work in progress." “It’s kind of a live-and-let-live corner,” he said. Panera area director Jeff Harman told CBS, “The concerns of the community are my concerns. If they’re feeling it, we want to understand it, and we’re committed to investigating as thoroughly as we can and then take the steps to eradicate it.”

[Via Consumerist]