On the same day Chicago announced the city would once again shut down bars in the face of rising COVID-19 cases, one of the North Side’s most storied taverns notified the public it was closing permanently. Guthries Tavern, a Wrigleyville fixture for 34 years, will have its last call on Thursday at 1300 W. Addison Street.
Ownership, via a Facebook post shared Monday night, wrote “with the new restrictions set today for bars and the ongoing COVID restrictions, we don’t see a way we can survive.” The bar, located a short walk west of Wrigley Field, served as an oasis from the typical Wrigleyville sports and party bar atmosphere along Clark Street. Bartenders poured craft beer, customers engaged in conversation, and friends played one of the many board games in tavern’s game library. The uniquely decorated ceilings, covered with local art and photos, would also often trigger discussion.
Guthries had reopened on July 8. Ownership cautiously waited; the city allowed bars to reopen on June 17, but many chose to sit out this reopening round. The state forced all bars to shut down in mid-March. Bars that reactivated will once again suspend indoor service on Friday. The city dangled the carrot of outdoor service being allowed but that provides little relief. The city does not issue sidewalk patio permits to taverns. Only restaurants — venues which serve food (the city defines taverns as places that only sell booze) — have patios in Chicago. The city also on Monday rolled back the maximum number of people in a group that can be served at a restaurant or bar. It’s gone from 10 to six people.
Many bar owners feel used as scapegoats for the rising novel coronavirus cases. Restaurants remain unaffected by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s order and can continue to serve alcohol indoors. Illinois Restaurant Association CEO and President Sam Toia tells the Sun-Times that he worries the could end up like LA, Miami, and Phoenix. These cites have suspended indoor dining after COVID-19 cases increased. If the government returns restaurants to lockdown, Toia says it would “the death of the hospitality industry in the city of Chicago.”
The influential Chicago Bars Twitter account (run by a bar owner who consults for taverns) wants Lightfoot and the city to take responsibility for Guthries’s shutter, writing the bar was killed by Monday’s restrictions: “This morning’s PR stunt isn’t without consequences.” There’s worry the “retightening” will open the floodgates to more closures. Chicago Bars also issued a bitter invitation to Lightfoot, asking the mayor to have a farewell drink together at the bar on the bar’s final day Thursday. Last week, health experts and Lightfoot said the closures were a possibility. They pointed at reports of overcrowded bars patronized by irresponsible customers and owners who ignored social distance rules.
Even during the busiest summer nights in Wrigleyville, Guthries never approached that type of wild atmosphere. The bar faced challenges. It’s hard to offer communal board games during a pandemic — how do you sanitize them? Guthries implemented a BYO game policy. Earlier this summer, in a since-deleted social media post, fans worried about Guthries’ future after the bar began giving away its games. It’s also a bar that’s conducive to sticking around and catching up with friends. Those are among the places health experts are anxious about, as they warn potential customers not to loiter. The city had installed a two-hour limit for customers at bars. Some tavern owners have elected to enforce shorter durations.
The bar was named for J.B. Guthrie, a big-shot Lakeview developer who made his moves in the neighborhood in the late 19th Century. The tavern building, which sits on the corner of Lakewood and Addison, has a history as a bar that dates back to 1933. Fans now have three days to say farewells to Guthries all with a dark cloud hanging over them that the pandemic will soon force them to bid adieu to another favorite drinking hole.