If there hasn’t been enough news for Four Corners, the bar and restaurant company that just announced a rebranding and national expansion, here’s another announcement. They’ve sold the company’s first bar — Schoolyard Tavern & Grill in Lakeview — to the owners of Links Taproom, the craft beer bar in Wicker Park. Schoolyard will close for 10 to 14 days starting on Thursday, July 14 at 3258 N. Southport Avenue, and reopen with the same name under the new ownership.
When Schoolyard reopens, the bar will have more of a craft beer focus, said Links owner Mike Quinlan. They’ll revamp Schoolyard’s menu and serve items offered at Links including sausages; loaded fries with chorizo, bacon, cheddar, and giardiniera; burgers; and cheese curds. The changes aren’t meant to radically alter the 17-year-old bar, Quinlan said. Marquette University basketball and University of Illinois football fans will still be welcomed. Existing staff can keep their jobs if they want.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Quinlan said. “It’s a successful business, it’s coming out of a well-run organization.”
The bar opened in 1994 and Schoolyard as Four Corners’ owners first bar venture. They formally launched the company in 2001, going on to open bars including Benchmark in Old Town, Federales in West Loop, and Brickhouse Tavern right in front of Wrigley Field. Four Corners’ co-founder Matt Menna called Schoolyard the foundation of their bar business. Four Corners has since grown to be a major player in Chicago’s restaurant and bar scene. They’re the local partners bringing New York’s TAO to Chicago. They’re flipping the page as neighborhood bar owners.
“We’ve learned so much and met many wonderful people through the years operating the establishment,” Menna said in a statement. “Naturally, we’ll miss Schoolyard, but our company has grown tremendously, and we look forward to the next chapter.”
Quinlan and operating partner Chris Chatman have been searching for a new location for years. Unlike Links, which they lease, they’ll own the Schoolyard property, which has Quinlan very excited. His goal is to launch a tavern group with multiple locations. They’ve run Links for four and a half years, and installed a modern flatscreen system where customers can see the beer menus and how much beer is left in a keg. Quinlan hopes to install a similar system at Schoolyard.
While Links specializes in local craft and hard-to-find beers, that doesn’t mean they’re going to eliminate the products from Budweiser and other macrobrewers from Schoolyard’s beer list. They’ll still be available, and once Quinlan and company get a better feel for their new customers, they’ll make proper adjustments.
Quinlan lived in the neighborhood and now feels its ready for more of a craft-centric bar. He pointed to the success of Corridor Beer & Provisions, located a few blocks north also on Southport. The microbrewery, a sibling of DryHop Brewers (located closer to Boystown) has been churning out quality brews for the last three years.
“We’re not going to mess with it much,” Quinlan said. “It was already run pretty well.”
Come back soon when they announce an opening date.