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GLENVIEW, Ill. (CBS) — There was a small victory this week for a group of restaurants fighting to have insurance companies pay out certain COVID-19 claims.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Tuesday, a federal judge ruled one case can proceed – despite the insurance company’s request to have it tossed.

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The owner of one restaurant in Glenview, and another in Wilmette, said he has insurance to protect him from business interruptions. He has been paying premiums for decades and has never had a claim before – which is why he began fighting when he did have a claim and was denied.

The Valley Lodge Restaurant in Glenview has been in business for 52 years. Owner Bill Stavrou and employees get ready nightly for dinner clientele.

Lunch hours were scrapped months ago, in one of many business hits due to the pandemic.

“It’s hard to quantify exactly how financially hit we’ve been” Stavrou said. We’ve been running so hard, so fast to do everything every day that we haven’t done the math.”

But Stavrou said one thing is crystal clear – business at his restaurants has been interrupted. He has been paying Society Insurance to protect him from such an interruption, but Society Insurance denied his claim.

Stavrou sued the insurance company to get them to pay up. Society moved to have the lawsuit dismissed, but late Monday, a federal judge ruled Stavrou’s case can move forward.

“We wouldn’t have filed a claim if we didn’t believe it was a just cause,” Stavrou said.

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Even the judge in the case acknowledged the pandemic-related interruption claim is virtually unprecedented.

In his ruling, the judge stated, “The fundamental questions at stake in the litigation are how properly to classify the interruption that has happened here, and whether this particular interruption is covered under the policy,” and found the policy does not contain a specific pandemic-related coverage exclusion.

Stavrou’s attorney, Shannon McNulty, calls the ruling highly significant for many Midwestern businesses in particular hit hard by COVID-19.

“By definition, I believe that it is – our business was been disrupted and interrupted, and that’s by definition what we’ve been paying for for the last 52 years,” Stavrou said.

Society Insurance Company clearly does not see it that way. A spokesperson said Tuesday afternoon that the company is disappointed with the ruling and will continue to fight it.

The Valley Inn group is one of three restaurant groups suing the insurance company.

As to the significance of the judge’s ruling for other restaurant owners in groups, policy language will be key. But if Valley Lodge wins, it could pave the way for similar cases, and it could determine the future of the insurance company.

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For instance, the judge mentioned one memo from Society’s chief executive officer to employees last March, in which he stated: “The insurance industry combined does not have enough assets to fund these losses…. Only government has the financial power to respond to these types of events.”

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Tags: chicago news investigative business interruption coronavirus covid 19 glenview insurance claims restaurants chicago news investigative we’ve been a federal judge ruled insurance company pandemic related the insurance the pandemic has been

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Generous tipper drops $1K at his favorite Chinatown takeout joints

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As tips go, this is way over 20 percent!

A Mandarin-fluent foodie has filmed himself dropping $1,000 tips at five of his favorite, but struggling, take-out joints in Manhattan’s Chinatown — and the video of his startled beneficiaries trying to give him back the money is just heartwarming.

“I got five thousand dollars,” YouTuber XiaoMaNYC explains in the clip before handing out the huge tips, which he stuffs into the bright red envelopes that are traditionally exchanged as gifts for Chinese New Year.

“We’re going to be going to five different restaurants, and giving them each a nice little ‘hongbao,'” he says, referring to the envelopes by their Mandarin name as he stuffs each with ten crisp $100 bills.

“It’s actually a great time to do this because it’s Chinese New Year,” he explains of the holiday, which began Feb. 12 and ended Friday.

“I’m just going to be going to some of my absolute favorite Chinese restaurants here in New York City,” explains the three-million-fan YouTuber — a Manhattan-based video producer whose real name is Arieh Smith.

“Not only do they provide great food to the people in the neighborhood, but they also support a lot of employees and they’re all family run,” he says. “They’re just really amazing and great people.”

One of his first stops was Spicy Village on Forsythe Street.

“They work nonstop for 12 hours a day, he said of the restaurant. “And they definitely deserve a little something.”

“We’re just hanging in there, honestly,” owner “Wendy” tells Smith, as she takes his noodles order and they chat in Mandarin about how business has been damaged by the pandemic.

Not knowing she’s on camera, she stuffs Smith’s takeout bag full of complimentary tea and holiday candies for his wife, tells him the order comes to $15, and wishes him a happy New Year.

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“Oh by the way, I wanted to give you something,” he says, handing over a hongbao envelope.

“No, I don’t want that!” she insists, backing away.

When Smith finally convinces her to take it, she looks inside and immediately tries to hand it back. The two practically tussle over the money. Smith insists, “Mei yo! mei yo!” — “No, don’t worry about it!” — as she repeatedly tries to stuff the envelope back in his backpack.

“Are you sure? I really can’t accept it!” she says, nearly in tears.

“I just wanted to thank you guys, on Chinese New Year,” Smith tells her. “Just keep doing what you’re doing and making great food!”

At other takeout windows, his red envelopes get similar reactions.

“This is crazy that you would do this!” one grateful owner tells him.

“Too much, dude!” protests a street vendor, who Smith speaks to in fluent Cantonese.

“No way!” shouts another restauranteur, after handing Smith a $1.50 milk tea and getting the huge tip in return.

Smith ends the clip by urging folks to support Chinatown or their own local eateries — though he concedes with a laugh, “You don’t have to tip them $5,000. You could just show up at any of these great restaurants and buy something delicious.”

Filed under chinatown ,  chinese new year ,  Coronavirus in NY ,  manhattan ,  restaurants ,  2/27/21

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