Bull & Bear’s lease is up in River North and the sports bar’s owners, DineAmic Hospitality Group (Siena Tavern, Public House, Prime & Provisions) won’t renew their agreement. That means Saturday’s New Year’s Eve party will mark the end of a 10-year run for the stock market-themed bar.
Co-owner Lucas Stoioff said they learned a lot about the restaurant business and serving food while operating Bull & Bear. Business has remained successful, but Stoioff and his partners didn’t think that was sustainable with a new lease and a likely increase in rent. They’ll instead focus their efforts on their new project inside the former BlackFinn AmeriPub in River North. Stoioff isn’t spilling details just yet, but they’re shooting for a late April or an early May opening, although BlackFinn is still open.
This was Stoioff and DineAmic partner David Rekhson’s second project, a follow up to the now-shuttered Stone Lotus nightclub. They wanted to have a stock market-like ticker at B&B that would show beer prices which would fluctuate based on sales; more popular beer would be more expensive. But the state’s Draconian liquor laws prevented sliding beer prices and the idea was tabled. Illinois lawmakers lifted the prohibition when they legalized happy hour in 2015.
The stock ticker was a hook designed to attract customers, but Stoioff didn’t want the bar to come off gimmicky like an amusement park ride. They just wanted to improve the old sports bar theme. That meant avoiding frozen chicken wings and hardwood benches for a more sophisticated feel.
“That doesn’t sound like rocket science, ’oh you want it to have better food and to be more comfortable? Whoopdeedoo,’” Stoioff said.
As with many bar operators, Dineamic has done some maturing. They started with a nightclub and moved to a sports bar before partnering with Top Chef alum Fabio Viviani on the Siena Tavern restaurants. “You get older, your life changes and you start wanting something different,” Stoioff said.
There’s no word on what will happen to the space after Bull & Bear vacates. Stoioff remembered criticism when they first proposed the bar before 2006. Many said the location was too far west from the center of The Loop. Now it’s a prime piece of real estate that’s been on the market for the last month.