Happy Village, the 54-year-old East Village corner dive bar, could find new life as a 50-seat gastropub from the opening chef at Honey’s, an acclaimed Fulton Market restaurant that’s now shuttered. The team would purchase the property at the corner of Thomas and Wolcott and sink $3 million into the space. They’d retain the Happy Village name and try to walk the line of being upscale yet unpretentious at 1059 N. Wolcott Street.
The space, two blocks south of Division Street, requires additional neighborhood approvals for any plans as it’s in the middle of a residential stretch. It’s not the first attempt by current bar ownership to sell their business. Two years ago, the group behind Lucky’s Sandwich Co. was interested, but a plan was never finalized. The oversized lot has a massive patio and the new proposal includes converting half of the outdoor space into a solarium.
The potential new ownership team is Out To Lunch Hospitality, a new company that formed after Honey’s demise. The company already has two projects on the books, both in Logan Square: a Caribbean-themed cocktail bar called X and Good Fortune, a seafood restaurant that grew out of a pop-up. The company’s creative director, Andrew Miller, confirmed the plans via a spokesperson. Company chef Charles Welch, who was opening chef at Honey’s, would create a menu of bar bites, burgers, and chops with entrees maxing out around $27. Happy Village 2.0 would be low key and use Midwestern ingredients.
“We’re excited to take on this new project,” Miller said. “It’s still too early to say what direction we will take this new concept, but we’re hopeful it will be a beloved neighborhood staple much like Happy Village was for so long.”
Out To Lunch’s plan includes restoring the bar’s kitchen — it used to serve sandwiches. There would also be a focus on whiskey. A third partner, Hector Gonzalez, is also part of the company. The bar’s history dates back to the late 19th Century, Block Club Chicago noted.
Happy Village has developed a stable of regulars and apexed as a hipster hangout thanks to the aforementioned patio and a backroom which houses two ping pong tables. Ownership seemed to begrudge the space’s transformation from a beer and shot bar to a space where younger customers lined up along the sidewalk waiting to get in on the weekends. If Happy Village joins Club Foot and Beachwood Tavern in dive bar heaven, there’s still plenty of choice in the area. Gold Star Bar, Rainbo Club, Phyllis’ Musical Inn, Ola’s Liquor, and Zakopane are still kicking. There’s also the Inner Town Pub down the street on Thomas.
Despite critical acclaim, Honey’s closed in January. Welch and Miller departed the restaurant in July 2017. Though Honey’s management downplayed the connection, Virgil Abloh, the fashion designer and rapper Kanye West’s creative director, oversaw the restaurant.
The East Village Association reported that a hearing on the Happy Village is scheduled for Monday at the bar.