What happens to the decor of a closed restaurant?

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Ideally, the decor, or at least the most valuable items among them, will find a new home. These are usually also sold at auction, but many are purchased by private collectors rather than other restaurants. When Chicago Joe’s, a staple on the Windy City’s North Side, closed in April 2022 after 33 years in business, the responsibility of selling its decor fell to auctioneer Randy Donley. He told the Chicago Sun-Times that their target buyers are “longtime customers, friends and family,” stressing the importance of keeping the restaurant’s history alive in the community. Items up for auction included sports memorabilia, 1920s light fixtures and even pieces of the restaurant’s oak bar.

In the end, nearly 300 people showed up to bid on Chicago Joe’s decor, illustrating how a community’s love for its restaurants can help preserve their legacy long after closure. The top prize of the night was the Chicago Joe neon sign, which sold for $32,450 (via Grants Lounge). But unfortunately, not all restaurants get the auction treatment when they close. In May 2020, at the height of pandemic restrictions, The Village Sun published photos of the closure of Manhattan’s Soho Room, showing piles of chairs and banquettes abandoned in a dumpster. It’s a stark contrast to Chicago Joe’s which, despite closing its doors, is able to maintain its community presence today and into the future.

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