Fountainhead — which has nothing to do with Ayn Rand — a rustic spot on the North Side for sipping whisky and enjoying weekend brunch, is closing. The shutter, scheduled for November 14, is the end for a pioneering bar that raised the stakes at a time where bar food seldom went beyond burgers and fried foods. It helped usher the age of the gastropub in Chicago.
Fountainhead received a Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan in the spring, says Jon Putman, the bar’s director of restaurant operations. The loan helped bridge the gap from spring to summer when staff could open up rooftop seating, but Putman says even then the the business wasn’t operating at a sustainable level. When it became clear that no more financial assistance was on the horizon, owners knew a closure was coming.
“It’s no one’s fault, there’s no one to blame — it just is what it is,” he says. “I hope the government can come together and get some assistance for restaurants that haven’t yet made that decision [to close], but every day there’s a new place that’s going to hit that point like we did.”
Staff already had a retail operation set up before the pandemic. Fountainhead Market, which sells wine, beer, spirits, snacks, and more for carryout and delivery, will remain open indefinitely. Owners announced the closure via social media on Thursday afternoon.
“The past year has been difficult for everyone but the pressures facing our industry at this time make it financially impossible to operate past the roof deck season,” the letter reads. “We made every effort to make adjustments to operate in this ‘new normal’ but with limitations restricting revenue and without funding to offset this condition it is impossible to continue.”
Though the letter leaves room for the possibility of survival should the situation improve, ownership states that in all likelihood, this will be the end of the Fountainhead in its current location and form. Those hoping to get their mitts on its prized whiskey and cellared beer selections are out of luck, however — owners plan to pack up and store the pub’s “library of liquid gems” in the hope that “a new Fountainhead [will] arise from the covid ashes.”
Fountainhead didn’t promote Rand’s notion of objectivity. The name’s just a reference to beer coming out of a tap, ownership told Chicago back when the bar opened in 2010. The restaurant helped further the career of chef Cleetus Friedman, who spent three years at the bar. Fountainhead’s ownership group also runs Bar on Buena and the Northman cider bar on the Chicago Riverwalk.
Putman is also sad to see long-term partnerships between Fountainhead and community organizations come to an end. On Friday, the bar will sponsor its last event, the ninth annual I Am Your Neighbor virtual party and fundraiser, with local nonprofit Common Pantry.
Block Club Chicago first reported the closing.