After complaints from neighbors with safety concerns, Panera Cares says it’s limiting the number of times “food insecure” individuals can come to the store for a cheap meal.
Representatives for the business at 616 W. Diversey Pkwy attended Monday’s South East Lake View Neighbors meeting to update residents about the things they’re doing to address safety concerns. Jimmy Hopper, one of the store’s managers, said they’ve been limiting people they think are abusing the system.
“People who were coming in every day, we are asking they limit themselves to one a week,” Hoppers said. “…Two reasons we kind of backed off from that. If we had people coming in that aren’t abusing the system, I’m not going to have them come in and sign their names.
“It’s the habitual offenders, and those are the people we asked to limit themselves to once a week,” Hoppers continued. “We didn’t want those people coming and just loitering around the community.”
This comes after representatives at last month’s SELVN meeting said needy people could come in for a discounted meal once a day. However, although the store is limiting repeat customers, Hoppers said they can still stop by once a day to pick up bread, bagels and pastries.
“We didn’t want those people coming and just loitering around the community.”
Combined with a slew of new security cameras and a detailed police study showing “there’s nothing really going on there,” Panera Cares representatives say they’re doing all they can to address neighborhood safety concerns.
And per the group’s request from last month’s meeting, Hoppers returned with more detailed tax information. In October, Panera Bread Area Director Jeff Harman said it was the first time Panera has been confronted with these tax loophole rumors.
“Tax questions have not come up in other locations,” Harman said. “…An email I received earlier was the first instance that I was confronted about tax. I can assure you there is no elaborate plan (to exploit tax loopholes). Panera Cares is a non-profit foundation. But that’s about all the information I have about tax at this time.”
Hoppers confirmed Harman’s statement Monday night, saying real estate taxes are built into Panera Cares’ lease. The only tax they claim to be altered is sales tax. Because the store is now considered a non-profit, they don’t charge customers sales tax.
Panera officials say there are 9,000 peope in Lake View who are food insecure, meaning they don't know where their next meal is coming from. Just 10 percent of those are homeless, their data reports.