Five years have gone by since the historic Red Lion Pub closed, but the wheels are finally in motion for a replacement to rise. Owner Colin Cordwell navigated years of lawsuits and red tape, spending that time collaborating on other openings (The Glunz Tavern, Bistro Voltaire), and has finalized plans to tear down the building in August. He expects a new Red Lion Pub to open in February.
Cordwell says the new Red Lion Pub "will be different—thank God." The structure will be one-and-a-half floors (including an interior second-floor balcony) with three fireplaces and a front garden room with retractable floor-to-ceiling windows. He describes the interior as a "warm, lived-in British pub look" with 22-foot ceilings, dim lighting, a library, and a wall recreating a set piece from "The King's Speech." It will cater to the actors, writers, and intellectuals in the neighborhood. "There aren't too many adult places in Lincoln Park anymore," he says.
The pub theme extends to food and drink offerings too. "I'm not pandering to the Budweiser crowd," he says, "I'm too old for that." Cordwell, who says he opened the first wine bar in Chicago (Bentley's), is working on a 40-bottle wine list that focuses on France and former British Empire countries. 14 taps will serve English ales and craft beer. On the food side, he mentions fish and chips and steak and mushroom pie.
The building was built in 1882, when the city border was North Avenue, and is supposedly one of the most haunted sites in Chicago. Cordwell's father opened Red Lion Pub in 1984; it closed in 2008. A new building will reopen in 2014, just in time for a 30-year anniversary.