After a six-week slumber for renovations, Miller’s Pub, the decades-old restaurant and bar underneath the CTA “L” tracks on Wabash, has reopened. Customers will notice a revamped entrance way, co-owner Andrew Gallios said, as “it no longer looks like a labyrinth.” Ownership aimed to give the space a small refresh without disturbing the historic building’s character. It reopened on Saturday at 134 S. Wabash Avenue.
Gallios isn’t quite ready to celebrate with a grand opening party. They’re still fine tuning. Even though he said 93 out of 94 employees returned to work at Miller’s, the main reason for the renovations — a dining room expansion that will add 70 seats and 900 square feet to the restaurant — isn’t open. Work is done, as crews have converted the former flower shop that neighbored Miller’s to the south. However, Gallios is still waiting for city approvals to open the new wing. They just applied for liquor licenses for the space this week. When they closed on January 29, ownership anticipated being 100 percent open by St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. Now Gallios said it will take 30 to 60 days for the new dining room to open. Right now, the space is cordoned off with velvet ropes: “It’s a little anti-climactic,” Gallios said.
Miller’s Pub is a nostalgic throwback that’s been around Chicago since 1935. The current iteration opened in 1989, across the street from the original location. The restaurant is full of oil paintings, black and white photos and signs calling back to Chicago’s history. Gallios said he still hasn’t replaced all the memorabilia. He acquired more wall coverings from his father and uncle which he’ll hang up in the new room.
Beyond the new entrance, which allows patrons to better see the bar and the rest of the space’s layout, most customers won’t notice that much has changed, Gallios said. They’ve updated the kitchen, the point of service system, added more TVs, and upgraded the sound system.
A scaffold remains in front of the building as crews convert it from a commercial space to residential. It will stay up until the summer, Gallios predicted. That work alone would have forced a temporary shutter, which provided one reason to go forward with the $1 million renovation project. Gallios also recently signed a long-term lease that left them more comfortable investing more money into the restaurant. Another reason for the work is that Chicago’s restaurants typically have fewer customers in February, when frigid temperatures rule and keep locals in their homes. Closing the restaurant during that month didn’t leave as much of a dent in their ledgers.
Even though the new dining room isn’t ready for customers, Miller’s Pub has reopened. People can check out a new spin on a Chicago classic today.