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Few Chicago Bars Are Actually Ready to Open

Plus, the Nono’s Deli food truck is ready to raise money for groups disparaged by Nini’s Deli

A wood paneled bar.
The Lodge near Rush and Division has been open for carryout.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

In theory, Wednesday is the first day taverns and brewery taprooms can reopen in Chicago, but not every bar owner is ready. Bars without food have been sidelined since mid-March, but can now reopen if they have the proper outdoor space. The city made the announcement on Monday leaving bar owners to scramble if they wanted to open Wednesday.

All bars have been allowed to sell packaged goods to go, but they’ve been closed for on-premise consumption since mid-March. Bars that serve food started to serve customers outdoors starting on June 3. Many of these establishments are classified as restaurants, therefore they can operate sidewalk patios. Taverns, places that pour alcohol but don’t offer food, are viewed differently and don’t have sidewalk patios in Chicago. Bars with retractable roofs or back patios can open Wednesday. Bars that have windows or doors that open up at least half a wall can open, too. Tables need to be eight feet from the openings.

Bar customers will be limited to two-hour stays, and sales for on-premises consumption have to end at 11 p.m. Delivery and take-out needs to end at 9 p.m. Tables will have a six-person limit, and need to be spaced six-feet away. The city encourages bars to partner with a food provider — which could include a caterer or food truck

Other bars — say Logan Arcade, the arcade bar in Logan Square — won’t be able to serve customers. It’s hard to imagine a vintage video game cabinet being moved outdoors. Arcade bars, along with corner tavern types, will likely have to wait for indoor dining to be approved. The state is targeting June 26 as opening day for indoor dining, but Chicago could wait until July 1.

The city also didn’t give bar owners much notice. The owners of the Green Eye Lounge, a Logan Square dive were caught by surprise. They won’t open Wednesday.

“We appreciate the city’s handling of the virus, but communication to bars has been frustratingly non-existent before this surprise announcement Monday,” the bar posted on Facebook. “We feel it would be irresponsible for us to rush to open without fully considering your health and safety, and the health, safety, and concerns of our staff, as well as whether this would be feasible and sustainable. Please bear with us a little while longer.”

John Laffler, the owner of Off Color Brewing, will not open his Lincoln Park taproom on Wednesday. They still need to figure out how to open safely. Off Color could open next week. The Tribune reports Lo-Rez Brewing in Pilsen and Sidetrack, the LGBTQ bar in Boystown, are waiting to open later this week.

Still, other bars are eager to pour customers beers. Four Treys Bar in Roscoe Village is opening. In Bowmanville, sports bar K’s Dugout is ready for patrons. Licorice Lounge in Chatham is welcoming guests. Meanwhile, as outdoor dining at restaurants continues, servers are reporting incidents of unruly customers refusing to wear masks or staying at their tables.

While customers can still grab a margarita at places like Big Star with food (and long lines), it’s going to be a while until corner bars can welcome patrons.

And in other news...

  • Stephanie Hart, founder of the wildly popular Brown Sugar Bakery in Greater Grand Crossing, is expanding her Chicago footprint to include Gresham’s Cupid Candies factory, according to the Tribune. After the sale, Cupid owner John Stefanos plans to work closely with Hart over the next three years to move her bakery kitchen to the factory at 7637 S. Western Avenue while maintaining her storefront on 75th Street. Hart told reporters that she hopes to keep all of the factory’s employees, who will continue producing Cupid chocolates and ice cream bars. Stefanos will hang onto candy store locations in suburban Oak Lawn and Orland Park. His father, a Greek immigrant, founded the company in 1936.
  • In the aftermath of the Nini’s Deli fiasco (the Noble Square restaurant that closed after a series of bigoted comments made by ownership), a local Chicago chef has found a silver lining. After a “sarcastic conversation” chef Danny Espinoza (Cantina Laredo) and friends have created Nono’s Deli, a food truck that will serve empanadas, media noches, and cafe con leche — all items served at Nini’s. Nono’s — a collaboration with Dark Matter Coffee, Cash Drop, Whittingham Meats, and Like Foods — will donate sales to My Block My Hood My City and Center on Halsted. Espinoza is also working with Edgar Gonzalez and Jared Bobo. They’ll be out at 8 a.m. Friday by Eckhart Park.
  • Two Black beer makers and entrepreneurs have launched a new craft brew that honors two iconic Harolds of Chicago fame, according to the Sun-Times. Jay Westbrook (Nisei Lounge) and Sam Ross’s “Harold’s ’83 Honey Ale,” created with Randolph Street’s Haymarket Brewing, is named for Harold Washington — Chicago’s first Black mayor, elected in 1983 — and Harold’s Chicken, the famous local chain favored by celebrities like Chance the Rapper. A distinct lack of racial diversity has haunted the craft beer industry for some time. Westbrook and Ross, along with Haymarket’s Michael Gemma, hope their endeavor will motivate more Black Chicagoans to get involved in craft beer culture. There’s no direct connection with Chicago White Sox Hall of Fame baseball player Harold Baines. Baines led the Sox to a division title in 1983.
  • More than 40 Chicago chefs, restaurateurs, and hospitality industry leaders are auctioning off their time in 30-minute slots to raise funds for immigrant restaurant workers effected by sweeping closures because of the coronavirus. “Ask Chefs Anything” participants include James Beard Award-winners Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark (Parachute, Wherewithall), acclaimed sommelier Belinda Chang, and decorated chef and Food Network’s Vegas Chef Prizefight winner Lamar Moore (Swill Inn, Smoke Daddy). The auction runs Wednesday through Saturday. Details are available on the project’s website.

Smoke Daddy

1804 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622 (773) 772-6656 Visit Website

Cantina Laredo

508 North State Street, , IL 60654 (312) 955-0014 Visit Website

Lonesome Rose

5310 North Clark Street, , IL 60640 (773) 654-1365 Visit Website

Off Color Brewing

3925 W Dickens Ave, Chicago, IL (773) 687-8245 Visit Website

Nini's Deli

543 North Noble Street, , IL 60642 (312) 243-9822 Visit Website


3472 North Elston Avenue, , IL 60618 (773) 692-2192 Visit Website


3500 North Elston Avenue, , IL 60618 (872) 204-7138 Visit Website

Lo Rez Brewing

2101 S Carpenter St, Chicago, IL 60608

The Point

401 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60654 (312) 666-1600 Visit Website

Dark Matter Coffee

738 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60612 (773) 697-8472 Visit Website

Haymarket Pub & Brewery

737 West Randolph Street, , IL 60661 (312) 638-0700 Visit Website


3349 North Halsted Street, , IL 60657 (773) 477-9189 Visit Website

Logan Arcade

2410 West Fullerton Avenue, , IL 60647 (872) 206-2859 Visit Website

Nisei Lounge

3439 North Sheffield Avenue, , IL 60657 (773) 525-0557 Visit Website

Land & Sea Dept.

3124 W Carroll Ave, Chicago, IL 60612 (312) 282-6092

Brown Sugar Bakery

328 East 75th Street, , IL 60619 (773) 224-6262 Visit Website