For over 40 years Blackhawks fans, players, employees and media have turned to George Lemperis and his restaurant, The Palace Grill, for hearty nourishment and off-ice entertainment.
NBC Sports Chicago featured Lemperis and The Palace's rich Blackhawks history in the story Inside the Palace Grill, the Blackhawks' official restaurant back in January.
Over the years, the establishment — once dubbed the official restaurant of the Blackhawks by former Hawks president John McDonough — has seen Patrick Kane pick up sandwiches after practice, Chris Chelios behind the grill cooking breakfast after a long night out, and much more.
George, like the entire restaurant industry, has had a very tough time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's beyond tough, it's not anything I'm experiencing that other people aren't experiencing. The (restaurant) industry as a whole is getting decimated," Lemperis said on a Zoom call from the restaurant.
"It's quite bad, it's beyond bad. First and foremost is the safety of my employees and my customers. We need to make sure that everybody is safe. As far as the actual business is concerned, it's very, very difficult."
The Palace, located at 1408 West Madison in Chicago, continues to have carry out and delivery available. The establishment recently got a much-needed boost with the surprisingly nice and long lasting fall weather as they were able to seat customers in outdoor tents. But the semi-outdoor dining came at a price of $2,600 to $3,00 a month, not to mention the three-month contract required to rent the tents.
"I don't have that money right now," George said. "Years ago would have been a no-brainer, but I don't have that money to do [it] right now. So, what are you gonna do?"
Aside from being "the United Center East" as Hawks announcer Pat Foley called it, The Palace is a part of countless people's routine during the hockey season. From the Blackhawks beat writers to Patrick Kane Sr., The Palace has long served as often the finest part of a game-day ritual for many in the hockey world.
Legendary — and recently-retired — lead NHL play-by-play announcer Mike 'Doc' Emrick is one such person you could have spotted at the restaurant before a Hawks' home game.
"First of all, you want to talk about one of the nicest, greatest guys you're ever going to meet, the sweetest man, 'Doc' Emrick. He's just a very humble individual. Hockey lost a legend in 'Doc' Emrick," George said. "'Doc' would come in here and we would have so much fun. And sitting down talking hockey with the legendary 'Doc' Emrick was just priceless."