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Food & Drink

Complaints Force The Tamale Guy To Shutdown Delivery Business

By Colby Smith

Complaints Force The Tamale Guy To Shutdown Delivery Business

The complaints prompted the city to issue Velez with cease and desist.

Since bars and restaurants were closed in mid March, Chi-town folk hero, Tamale Guy, has kept up his business through home deliveries. Not everyone, however, was pleased with his new business venture. Over the weekend a series of complaints were issued to the city, resulting in the City of Chicago issuing Velez with a cease-and-desist — forcing him to shutdown his business.

Before all this madness, if you were out late at the bars in Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town, or Logan Square, properly buzzed and undernourished, there’s no face you would’ve loved to have seen more than Claudio Velez aka the Tamale Guy.

Velez was a fixture on the scene, and a welcome sight for sore eyes, and hungry bellies. Those nights, in the doldrums caused by the gradual realization that a hangover was imminent, the Tamale Guy would come to your rescue with a 6-pack of tamales and put your mind and hunger at ease.

Many Chicagoans considered an encounter with Velez to be a sign of good luck, a spark of joy in a low moment.

When bars and restaurants were forced to close, March 16,  Claudio Velez had to make some adjustments to his businesses. Instead of selling his tamales in kitchen-less bars to feed hungry patrons, Velez began delivering his red-cooler tamales to homes across the city to keep up a source of income.

His phone number was soon posted to social media, and circulated in some circles, providing Velez with an ample customer base to stay afloat during the city’s stay-at-home order.

Additionally, Velez, in conjunction with West Loop Community Garden, organized two curbside pickup events. Where customers could pre-order and pickup tamales so long as they practice social distancing while waiting. The events were successes, providing customers with the comfort food of pre-COVID days, and Velez with earnings that would temporarily provide for him and his family.

But some people were not happy with these pickup events.

“Got a call from my friend, Claudio The Tamale Guy, this morning. Looks like he’s out of business for the time being. Somebody didn’t like that he was still out there hustling trying to make a living during this shutdown and found out where he lived, then proceeded to report him to the city,” a friend of Velez posted on social media. “He received a ‘cease and desist’ letter from the city to stop selling his tamales because he is not a licensed vendor,” the post wrote.

The letter charged Velez with operating his business without a retail vending license. As a result, Velez stopped immediately, worried that further action would destroy his chances of eventually opening up a restaurant.

“Needless to say he is a little freaked out and upset so he has decided to stop selling. He’s afraid of ruining any chance of eventually opening up the restaurant that he’s been planning on getting,” the friend writes.

Velez says that he hopes to open up his restaurant in Cicero, due to the expenses in Chicago. Although due to the circumstances, hasn’t offered a timeline.

Meanwhile, he has received an outpour of support from the public. With no means of income to support his family now that his business is shutdown, an industry friend set up a relief fund for Velez via GoFundMe.

In just four days the page raised over $30,000 for Claudio and his family. If you would like to see Claudio back on the streets, tamales in tow, after all this ends, head over to his page and show him some support!

Feature Photo by Víctor González from Pixabay