September 28, 2021

Happy Tuesday! It's National Drink Beer Day. Finally, an excuse to drink.

  • Today's weather: exactly what it should be for the end of September. 72 degrees by midday.

Today's newsletter is 927 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Chicago's poopiest beaches

Humboldt Park Beach fared the worst again this year when it came to fecal indicator bacteria levels in the water. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios.

Fecal bacteria in Chicago beach water got bad enough to trigger safety warnings 16% of the time this summer.

  • Beaches with the best and worst records stayed pretty steady compared to previous years, according to city data analyzed by Axios.

Why it matters: Chicago is expected to stay in the 70s all week, making swimming tempting β€” if not legal. And since the city stops testing the water on Labor Day, there are no official warning flags to tell you when fecal levels (measured through concentrations of enterococci bacteria) get dangerous.

Context: During the summer, the city posts a yellow flag when enterococci levels hit 1,000 calibrator cell equivalents (CCE) or higher. It means swim with caution because people could get sick at that level.

The latest: 2021 data showed that beach water at Humboldt Park, Montrose, and 63rd Street tied for the most days with elevated enterococci levels (at 17 days each).

Data: City of Chicago; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Humboldt Park fared worst overall with both the highest percentage of elevated days (26%) and the highest reading of 118,370 β€” more than 118 times higher than the warning limit.

Humboldt Park Beach has a long history of bacteria issues and it's a special case for a few reasons:

  • It's the only beach not located on Lake Michigan β€” essentially an inland pond.
  • It registered elevated levels 26% of the time, but it was open only about half as many days as the rest of the beaches and therefore tested less.

Still, that 118,370 CCE reading on Aug. 19 is scary stuff β€” especially because park officials almost never close a beach for fecal readings.

  • Officials made an exception and closed Humboldt that day.
  • "We were not able to definitively identify a source, although anecdotally many geese and dogs were observed at the beach," spokesperson Michele Lemons tells Axios.

Bonus: Swimming tickets are rare

Waves wash over a concrete bike and jogging path along Lake Michigan. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Chicago Police Department returned our FOIA request about how many tickets CPD has issued to people for swimming on beaches out of season in the last five years.

That number is: zero

2. R. Kelly convicted of sex trafficking

R. Kelly during the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards. Photo: Jason Squires/WireImage

Yesterday, Chicago music superstar R. Kelly was found guilty of racketeering in a federal courtroom in New York City. The jury found him guilty of running a criminal enterprise to lure and trap girls, mostly underage. He faces decades in prison.

Catch up quick: This is not a new story for Chicago. Kelly has been accused of sex with underage girls for years. He was acquitted of child pornography charges in a 2008 trial.

Chicago music journalist Jim DeRogatis has been at the center of this story since receiving an anonymous videotape allegedly showing Kelly having sex with an underage girl, which prompted the 2008 trial.

What he's saying: "All of the women I've interviewed [over] 21 years on this tragic story, many of whom stay in touch, say the same thing: They are glad he has finally been held to account, but it is too little, too late for them," DeRogatis tells Justin. "Chicago should never have allowed it to continue for 30 years β€” since victim number one, in 1991."

What's next: Kelly will stand trial in Chicago on charges of child pornography and obstruction of justice.

3. Tips and hot links

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏫 Chicago Public Schools enrollment is down 24,000 students since the pandemic began. (WBEZ)

πŸ₯¬ The U.S. salmonella outbreak is hitting Illinois hard. 23 people are sick. (Patch)

The Mix's Eric Ferguson was sued by former employee for an "unwelcome sexual relationship." (Robert Feder)

β›± The Dunes are closed due to rusty runoff caused by steel plants. At least it's not poop. (Post-Tribune)

🍽 Is the fine dining boom in Chicago over? Alinea dropped off the World's 50 Best Restaurants list. (Eater Chicago). But? Portillo's is going public. (ABC 7 Chicago)

🏈 It's Tuesday morning and Matt Nagy is still coach of the Bears. Much to the chagrin of Bears fans. (Yahoo)

Mom of CPS child exposed toΒ  COVID-19 at school dies (Chicago Sun-Times)

4. New SNL cast reps Chicago

Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, and Cecily Strong during the "What I Remember" cold open on May 22, 2021. Photo: Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

SNL announced the cast for the 47th season yesterday. Here's a quick rundown of the Chicago connections:

  • New cast member Sarah Sherman is known to Chicago audiences as Sarah Squirm. She was part of the Helltrap Nightmare show that performed regularly at The Hideout until 2019.
  • Aidy Bryant, Cecily Strong, Chris Redd and Alex Moffat return for another season. All four of them spent time in Chicago's improv scene.
  • Longtime cast member Beck Bennett will be leaving the show. He grew up in Wilmette.

The first episode airs this Saturday night, Oct. 2.

5. Bite Club: A bowling alley burger with Seoul

The Seoul burger from Boba Burger, a restaurant inside a bowling alley in Morton Grove. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios.

When Stephen E. of Lakeview recommended Monica try Asian-inspired burgers from a bowling alley restaurant in Morton Grove, she was intrigued.

The background: Vietnamese-American brothers Loc and Anthony Tran opened Boba Burger inside Classic Bowl six years ago, but decided to go well beyond the usual fast food fare.

  • "We planned to do just hot dogs and burgers," Loc tells Axios. "But we noticed a lot of Asian bowlers here and decided to make it an Asian fusion restaurant."

The menu tempted Monica with things like the Tokyo dog, featuring a tempura-fried wiener topped with wasabi aioli, pickled daikon and nori strips; or the Hawaiian burger with teriyaki-glazed pineapple, fried spam and sriracha aioli.

  • But the self-imposed Bite Club rules restrict her to one dish per story. So she went with Stephen's recommendation of the Seoul burger ($8.50).

The verdict: When she bit into this brioche-topped mountain of fried egg, lettuce, cheese, tomato, house ground burger and kalbi-glazed bacon, her head was spinning in the best way. It recalled bi bim bap on a brioche bun and went beautifully with an order of hand-cut fries.

Monica is still thinking about the Pierogi Fest pajamas she was not able to buy from the The Whiting Indiana Chamber of Commerce on Saturday because it had just closed. Next time she drives through, those PJs will be hers.

Justin still can't believe his neighbors already put up their Halloween decorations. It's still September!

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