The Leavitt Street Inn and Tavern, the long-awaited Bucktown guesthouse and bar inside the former home of neighborhood dive Mickey’s Tavern, is open for patio service after six years of planning and restoration. The project was first announced in 2014 and faced numerous challenges, but at long last, owners get to show off the results of their blood, sweat, and tears.
“We couldn’t have gotten here without our friends and family,” says co-owner Teddy Harris. “It was such a long haul and the neighborhood has been so patient, it’s crazy.”
Harris, along with co-owner and wife Sarah Brick, hope the spot will become “the neighborhood’s guest room and in-law suite,” a place for community members to gather and enjoy themselves. For the time being, patrons can drink on what’s currently a 50-seat brick-paved patio (it can hold 150 without social distancing). The couple are working on an additional outdoor space about 15 feet away where local musicians can serenade customers from a safe distance.
The tavern itself has 16 taps, though not all set up yet, featuring locally brewed craft beers along with seasonal cocktails like a whiskey blackberry smash and vodka lemonade punch. Brick promises “tons of wines,” and in a nod to Mickey’s, classic canned beers like Pabst, Old Style, and Stroh’s. The couple have even restored the vintage Stroh’s sign, which they plan to return to its original location above the door outside the bar.
Harris and Brick plan to offer a limited food menu as well, but they’re awaiting a retail food license from the city and hunting for a cook who understands their vision. They’re currently considering items like oysters, burgers, charcuterie plates, and vegan options, but nothing is official quite yet. The co-owners place special emphasis on responding to what their community is looking for, with a little something for everybody. They’ve already begun integrating suggestions from friends and neighbors, like a snow cone machine with a weekend special featuring icy treats for kids and beers for parents.
Inside, the owners describe the 75-seat bar as bright and airy, thanks in large part to large windows that flood the room with light. Though they’ve invested a significant amount of time and money in updating the space, Harris and Brick feel it’s important to pay tribute to its history. One of the bar’s other partners (four other local couples have invested) removed the original bar in its entirety only to restore and refit it back into the floor, and are using design details to weave a in specific shade of gray-green inspired by color of the original stairwell that connected the bar to the former owners’ upstairs apartment.
As the extended timeline indicates, the restoration and building process at 2345 N. Leavitt Street, tucked away at the end of a street that dead-ends at the Kennedy Expressway, was significant. Among Harris and Brick’s tasks was removing asbestos-filled flooring, which required environmental remediation, installing new widows, and removing a dropped ceiling so the original tin underneath could be restored. They also struggled to get a small business lone and had to wade through a complicated licensing process so they could transfer the bar’s ownership without being saddled with its past records.
The couple estimate the inn’s three guest rooms, which feature skylights and a minimalist aesthetic, are about “98 percent” ready to debut. They expect the rooms to be fully up and running in about two weeks.
Though the pandemic threw a wrench in Harris and Brick’s plans for a grand opening, the shutdown ended up serving them in a way they didn’t expect: both were laid off from their jobs as creatives, so they were able to devote all their working hours to finishing the tavern and inn. “COVID kind of worked out for us, which is really weird,” says Harris. “We put a lot of sweat equity into it so we could make it what we wanted it to be in the end — it gave us the time.”
The Leavitt Street’s tavern is open for patio seating in Bucktown, and its inn is slated to debut in the next few weeks.