Big news involving one of Chicago’s best bars, as Jay Schroeder—the force behind Mezcaleria Las Flores—has left Eater Chicago’s reigning bar of the year. A conflict has been brewing in recent months between Schroeder and the bar’s investor group, which includes Sarah Jordan, the acclaimed former pastry chef and proprietor of the adjoining Johnny’s Grill. Schroeder said the investors failed to grant him a partnership they had promised at the outset before the bar opened in March in Logan Square.
Schroeder is responsible for much of mezcal’s uptick in popularity in Chicago. He nurtured his affection for the Mexican spirit while working for Rick Bayless as bar manager at Frontera Grill. After Jordan revived the Johnny’s Grill space in August 2015, she found Schroeder to develop a collaboration to revive the neighboring space, a former flower shop. Hence the name, Mezcaleria Las Flores.
Though not as many folks know about mezcal, say compared to whisky, the bar became a hit with funky concoctions and bolstered by Schroeder’s ability to educate mezcal novices. It made the bar friendly and very accessible. Schroeder also made sure the menu was full of hip-hop references which extended the bar’s mystique. Schroeder was prepared to leave last week, but apparently the bar’s investors made a last-ditch effort to retain his services.
Jordan is excited about the changes for 2017, and that includes a new beverage director and drink menu: “We’re confident that this person’s reputation and experience will carry the spirit of the bar, and I know the public will be as excited as I am,” Jordan wrote.
Schroeder and Jordan issued a joint news release with separate statements. Schroeder was very complimentary to Jordan in a statement, but added there were problems with other members of the ownership group. He said the move is made with “great sadness,” adding that he “poured his heart and soul” into the project.
“At the outset I would have never imagined that we as a team would have been able to accomplish what we have: all that we set out to do and much more,” he wrote.
Jordan claimed there’s no hard feelings over the departure. She respects Schroeder’s talent, but it wasn’t working out. Apparently, they attempted to resolve the issues over the last few months.
“There were various differences on the operations end that we have personally not been able to see eye to eye on,” Jordan said in the statement. “Despite many discussions and attempts between him and I to resolve matters over the course of the last few months—it just comes down to the fact that it simply wasn’t the right fit.”
Schroeder added that he’ll take a break and recharge. He hasn’t announced any future plans or when he would return to the bar industry. Friday was his final night at the bar.