Sam Toia on how to revive Chicago’s restaurant industry

Sam Toia is an extremely visible presence around city government, whether he’s standing alongside the mayor at press conferences, lobbying aldermen behind the scenes or promoting public education and tourism initiatives. As president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, Toia’s job is to advocate for eateries across the state — to make sure the restaurant industry is “at the table, not on the menu” for public policymakers, as he puts it. That job got much harder after restaurants were decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Toia has had a front-row seat to the panoply of federal, state and local programs that have been put in place to try to keep restaurateurs afloat. He spoke with The Daily Line’s Alex Nitkin about the deep toll the pandemic took on Chicago’s restaurant scene, and what it’s going to take for the industry to bounce back, including a new round of funding from the federal government and a purge of red tape by the city.