Last year, when Zack Eastman closed the East Room — the late-night Logan Square bar — he teased future plans for something new inside the space at 2354 N. Milwaukee Avenue. Eastman was planning a pivot even before the pandemic. But with COVID-19 reshaping business plans for restaurants and bars, Eastman — alongside former East Room partner Blake Witsman — are pivoting again. If they’re not too dizzy, later this month they’ll unveil Easy Does It, a hybrid bottle shop and bar with a 15-table patio.
East Room often packed customers, which wouldn’t make infectious disease doctors happy right now. Easy Does It’s reservations will be listed on Tock. That’s just a pandemic reality. Reservations, even ones that are prepaid or ones that require deposits, help management who seek to limit the time patrons spend at their establishments. Ownership at Emerald Isle in Edison Park can testify to that after management posted a long letter about an incident over the weekend with a large and disrespectful crowd. Reservations also help manage staffing. When Easy Does It opens, customers will order and pay for their drinks using their smartphones to reduce contact with servers. Maria’s Community Bar in Bridgeport is among the taverns the employ a similar set up to create a safer environment; customers at Maria’s pay using Apple Pay.
In another move brought on by the pandemic, the bar will automatically add a 20-percent gratuity on checks “in support of fair wages for all service industry workers,” according to a news release. In the age of coronavirus hazard pay, that’s an increasingly familiar practice — even though a Lakeview restaurant was raked for including a fee back in May; they were pioneers. Easy Does It will include an additional 3-percent fee will also be added to allow management to pay workers more.
Eastman — one of the partners in the original Saved by the Bell pop-up restaurant — has embraced natural wine over at his Wicker Park restaurant and music venue, Dorian’s. Easy Does It continues that wave. The wine list is heavy on selections created with minimum intervention. These wines are often cloudier because they’re unfiltered, most often described as funky. Another trend is spiked kombucha, something drinkers can find a Pilot Project brewery in Logan Square. They’ll offer that, and a bevy of the ever-popular spirit-free drinks. These are all proverbial “patio pounders.”
Easy Does It will eventually welcome customers inside when doctors deem it safe. Crews are renovating the space, including the bar area on the second floor. While East Room was dark and moody, a spot for dancing while hearing a DJ set, Easy Does It opts for “light, fresh, and airy.” The work will help highlight the original architectural features of the space, including exposed brick.
East Room opened in 2014 and closed in November. Check back for updates on Easy Does It. Block Club Chicago first reported the story.
Easy Does It, 2354 N. Milwaukee Avenue, planned to open in late August.