Choose Chicago media relations contacts:

Robert Fojtik,
Michelle Gonzalez,
Diageo North America Media Relations Contact:
Luis Rabago,

Diageo is donating $2.5 million to help create more public space, especially on the South and West Sides 

Chicago, IL – March 19, 2021 – Choose Chicago, in partnership with the City of Chicago, today announced an innovative new initiative aimed at boosting recovery efforts for neighborhood communities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic: Chicago Alfresco. Chicago Alfresco is an integral part of Choose Chicago’s push for more neighborhood tourism and one pillar of the City’s broader initiative to open streets and create places for dining, public life, community, arts, culture, walking and biking.

“Outdoor dining has become a lifeline for so many of our neighborhoods, but not all of them have been able to take advantage of our safe, outdoor dining programs,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “And by creating and transforming public spaces, the Chicago Alfresco initiative will significantly increase our city’s ability to fully revitalize the public way. Last year, we started this program out of necessity to help bars and restaurants stay open safely, now we’ve seen how well this program works and how much the City loves it, so we want to keep it going.”

“This partnership is an outstanding example of what makes Chicago the Best Big City in the U.S.,” said Glenn Eden, Chair, Choose Chicago Board of Directors. “Chicago Alfresco will make our neighborhood treasures more accessible to everyone, in a socially responsible manner. Dining is one of the hallmarks of the Chicago visitor and resident experience. And on the initiative dedicated to creating outdoor public space, we are thrilled to collaborate with Diageo and the City to support the communities that have been severely impacted by COVID.”

Chicago Alfresco builds upon the success of the City’s Expanded Outdoor Dining program, which was extremely important during the COVID pandemic for hundreds of Chicago restaurants, enabling them to operate in private parking lots, on sidewalks, and in closed streets. That program will continue as it did last year for intermittent closures and those on private property.

“Driving tourists to our neighborhoods is a key priority for Choose Chicago, now more than ever. Chicago Alfresco will transform the face of tourism by allowing every area of our city to reimagine its community space. This program is a first of its kind in the nation. I want to thank Diageo for stepping up in support of our neighborhoods and advancing our citywide mission of ensuring our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is both equitable and inclusive,” says Choose Chicago neighborhood strategy lead Rob Fojtik.

In support of the project to help create more public space, the North America business of Diageo -owner of brands such as Guinness, Smirnoff and Crown Royal- has committed $2.5 million to support the city’s economic recovery plan. Grant resources will be prioritized for neighborhoods with the greatest potential for tourism growth, and at least three-quarters of the funds will be spent on the South and West Sides of Chicago, with a focus on underrepresented communities and small business areas disproportionately harmed by the pandemic. Community-led place-based public way activations throughout the City have typically depended on an applicant’s capacity to fund proposed projects, and this third-party grant opportunity will provide neighborhood organizations the financial assistance they require to implement their projects.

The city holds particular significance to Diageo as it is home to one of the company’s corporate offices. Dr. Danielle Robinson, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Diageo North America, said: “By improving public spaces for these communities to come together and safely socialize, we are helping reactivate the vitality of the City of Chicago and its economic engine. Diageo is proud to contribute to the City’s goal to emerge stronger with the recovery.”

These donated funds will be managed by Choose Chicago and dispersed independently through the non-profit neighborhood chambers of commerce for various projects intended to cover improvements for general outdoor public enjoyment, including traffic safety equipment, design costs (such as planters, lighting, umbrellas, architect and design planners’ fees), and surface treatments.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is now accepting Chicago Alfresco proposals from community organizations such as Chambers of Commerce, Special Service Area providers, and other not-for-profit organizations interested in creating longer-term active community spaces that are anchored by outdoor dining or which highlight community-focused placemaking, support community identity, and provide opportunities for public enjoyment. Neighborhood organizations can find more information at

Proposals for Chicago Alfresco and public way projects will be accepted by the City until April 15. The City will approve the first round of plans for both by April 30. A virtual webinar will be held on March 26 at 3pm to answer any questions regarding the Chicago Alfresco Call for Projects. Neighborhood organizations may then move forward with their own sources of funding if they are not eligible for the available grants managed by Choose Chicago.

# # #



About Choose Chicago

Choose Chicago is the official sales and marketing organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination, leveraging the city’s unmatched assets to ensure the economic vitality of the city and its member business community. For more information, visit Follow @choosechicago on Twitter and on Instagram@choosechicago. Like us on Facebook.

About Diageo North America

Diageo is a global leader in beverage alcohol with an outstanding collection of brands including Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, Bulleit and Buchanan’s whiskies, Smirnoff, Cîroc and Ketel One vodkas, Casamigos and Don Julio tequilas, Captain Morgan, Baileys, Tanqueray and Guinness.

Diageo is listed on both the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: DEO) and the London Stock Exchange (LSE: DGE) and their products are sold in more than 180 countries around the world. For more information about Diageo, their people, brands, and performance, visit Visit Diageo’s global responsible drinking resource,, for information, initiatives, and ways to share best practice. Follow at Twitter and Instagram for news and information about Diageo North America: @Diageo_NA.