Legendary Chicago fish joint reopens after city-imposed closure: 'We've never been shut down'

fish joint outside
The exterior of Calumet Fisheries Photo credit Mike Krauser

(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- After being shut down by the city health department for several weeks, Calumet Fisheries is back in business.

The 75-year-old Southeast Side seafood institution at 3259 E. 95th St. passed an inspection Friday, according to Chicago Department of Public Health records.

The city health department closed Calumet Fisheries on Oct. 31 after finding evidence of rodents — including more than 150 droppings of mice and rats in storage areas and in the basement — along with a dozen other minor violations, according to public health records. It then failed a re-inspection a week later when inspectors said evidence of pests was still present.

The restaurant was back in business Saturday as employees spent most of Friday smoking fish preparing to open again the next day, co-owner Mark Kotlick said.

“We’ve never been shut down, and the particular inspector did not choose to work with us and let us stay open while we cleared the violations,” Kotlick told the Sun-Times on Sunday night. “It just didn’t seem right. … It’s never affected our food.”

Kotlick said he didn’t want to bash the city because the inspections are “very necessary,” but he took issue with the restaurant being shut down, saying it’s never happened before. He expressed frustration at the length of the closure.

The restaurant had previously failed an inspection in February 2020 when inspectors found more than two dozen rodent droppings throughout the building, among other issues, according to city records. An October 2022 inspection was spurred by a complaint, though evidence of pests wasn’t found at that time.

Kotlick said the issue was seasonal as pests looked for a place to hide from the cold, often choosing the restaurant’s basement. He said extra efforts, mostly in the form of traps, are brought out each year to combat it.

He also said the restaurant almost didn’t return, facing almost a month of lost revenue, though Kotlick cited his employees and “phenomenal” customers for keeping the business afloat — especially with Thanksgiving coming up, when he said the restaurant’s business picks up.

“It’s in the past, I’m ready to move on,” Kotlick said. “We just hope to continue to provide the Southeast Side with probably the best seafood in the U.S.”

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire & Chicago Sun-Times 2023. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Mike Krauser