2021 Taste of River North canceled, Howard Brown Health pulls out of Pride Parade amid pandemic

This year's Taste of River North has been canceled due to ongoing complications surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and an uptick in cases involving the more contagious Delta variant.

The River North Residents Association along with theMART and Duff Entertainment made the announcement on Thursday.

Mike Riordan, president of River North Residents Association, said the hospitality industry has not recovered from the pandemic and restaurants in River North don’t have adequate resources to participate in the event.


"Despite everyone’s passion and dedication over the past few months, the inescapable fact is that much of our wonderful hospitality community has not yet recovered sufficiently from the pandemic and its consequences to their operations," Riordan said in a statement. "Many River North restaurants would love to participate, but their depleted resources are understandably dedicated to keeping their businesses up and running as best they can."

Riordan said an uptick in COVID-19 cases as well as the rise of the more transmissible Delta variant made it impossible for organizers to move forward with the event "in good conscience."

"In addition to the food service capacity challenges, we are also mindful of worrisome trends in the public health sphere with the rise of the more virulent 'Delta' variant," Riordan said. "We don’t know how serious this will get, or how city and state policies about large public gatherings may change in response, but the last thing we want is to inadvertently create health risks in our community."

Those who have already purchased tickets in advance for the festival will receive a refund, according to event organizers.


Riordan said organizers remain hopeful of putting on a safe and enjoyable Taste of River North next year. 

Howard Brown Health, the largest LGBTQ Healthcare agency in the Midwest, also announced on Thursday that it will not be participating in October's Pride Parade in Chicago as concerns mount over the Delta variant.

"We're seeing a variant that is much more contagious, much more transmissible from person to person and we know that those that are unvaccinated are wholly vulnerable to severe disease, hospitalization and even death," said Dr. Anu Hazra, an infectious disease doctor at Howard Brown Health. "While this is a very difficult decision for our executive leadership to make, it came from a place of knowing what, as a health center, what kind of example we need to set."

Hazra says Chicago's vaccination rate of about 50 percent is still way too low for the Center to participate in large scale public events, and that more people need to get vaccinated. 

"I think the most important thing to keep in mind is a virus that can't replicate can't mutate. The only way we can stop the ongoing course of these variants that we keep seeing is by stopping the replication," said Harza.