Sunday will be the last night for Chicago’s first cider bar in its current incarnation. The owners of the Northman announced on Monday that the North Center bar will close. Ownership, via social media, wrote they sold the building at 4337 N. Lincoln Avenue, and that a new bar from a new team which “will remain cider focused” will eventually replace the Northman. The Chicago Riverwalk location remains unaffected.
Northman co-owner Aaron Zacharias said they’ve been discussing the deal for six months, but it wasn’t until last week when ownership felt solid enough to go public with their intentions. They’ve kept staff abreast about the discussions, and Zacharias hopes the building’s new ownership will hire his old staff when they take over.
Zacharias said they’ll miss several aspects of the business, but “it really does allow us to do a lot more.” For instance, he’ll soon announce details on a new project, Northman Cider Company. That’s an outgrowth of the pub cider they’ve sold at the bar. They’re also expanding the Chicago Riverwalk location. They’re installing a 2,200-square-foot retractable pergola which will have reserved seating on select busy days. They hope to debut the space for one of the riverwalk’s busiest, St. Patrick’s Day. That’s when the city dyes the water green.
“The Northman brand will live on,” Zacharias said.
The Northman opened in 2016 to much fanfare from the same ownership group that’s behind Fountainhead, the whiskey-heavy restaurant and bar in Ravenswood, and Bar on Buena. The Northman quickly found a niche for cider lovers and paved the way for other Chicago cider projects, such as Eris Brewery & Cider House and Right Bee Cider’s taproom. The Northman further proved that Chicago has a thirst for ciders, one that went beyond what major breweries were selling at supermarkets. Knowledgeable bartenders and friendly staff helped educate customers who didn’t yet know if they liked dry or sweet ciders.
The bar’s popularity increased so much that ownership opened a second location in 2018 along the Chicago Riverwalk. The fact that the bar had attracted the attention of the city of Chicago, which only works with established brands to fill vendor spots along the Chicago River, was further evidence of ownership’s success.
Zacharias said it was just time to turn the page on the North Center bar. He wouldn’t divulge the identities of the new owners, but said cider fans should be happy with the ownership change even though “it wasn’t going to be the Northman anymore.” He wishes he could have told customers about the plans before instead of five days before the closure — such is the nature of business. But he still hopes that they can come in and enjoy a pint or two.
Say goodbye to the original Northman on Sunday, and come back for more details on its replacement soon.