Tavern culture shapes nearly each of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods (save the city’s dry wards where, through the local option, liquor licenses cannot be issued). Chicago’s bars serve as so-called “third places” for community gathering, spaces to cheer on the city’s sports teams, and venues where music fans converge before and after concerts. While Chicago’s bars can be warm and welcoming, there’s a unique toughness that has helped them survive. Owners are summoning this resolve this year as COVID-19 threatens to wipe out their livelihoods.
Many physicians say drinking at a bar is among the riskiest activities to undertake during the pandemic, and that’s convinced lawmakers to restrict how bars operate: to curb hours, to limit how long customers can linger, and to require customers and staff to wear facial coverings. Most have adhered to the guidelines, but the city has fined and closed a few violators that did not abide by social distancing rules.
Still, Chicago has a rich legacy when it comes to bars — one that’s not always inclusive. Drinkers will find mixologists willing to push boundaries, innovative brewers, and the old fashioned packaged-good store, also known as a “slashie.” A Chicago icon, tavern-style pizza, was born inside bars. Of course, then there’s malört, a unique rite of passage for new Chicagoans that proves as polarizing within the city as it does to the rest of country.
Bars have begun to sell to-go cocktails and set up patio furniture in parking lots and driveways; some have even brought in ovens to sell pizza to satisfy the city’s food mandate, which requires bars to serve food if they want to pour drinks indoors. The creativity is saving some bars, while the challenges have been too daunting for others that have closed their doors forever.
Chicago’s bars aren’t the only ones where tavern culture has transformed in 2020. Drinking in America’s bars is forever changed as the nation faces the challenges from the novel coronavirus. Read on to learn how bars across the country are dealing with COVID-19 as the industry fights for survival.
Drink up the history
- ‘Dying’ Package-Goods Bars May Be Best Positioned to Survive Pandemic
- Chicago’s Tavern-Style Pizza Reigns Supreme
- As Chicago’s Bars Go, So Goes the City
- ‘Third Places’ Forced to Evolve as Coronavirus Ravages Bars and Coffeeshops
Discover the city's passion for taverns
- How Pop-Up Bars Went From Pop-Culture Fad to the Chicago Way
- How Chicago Found an Unorthodox Way to Save a Classic Bar