This isn’t an orthodox bar opening for the crew behind Easy Does It, as owner Zach Eastman calls it “an incremental opening” in Logan Square. The pandemic forced the team to alter their plans for the former East Room and for the time being only the 15-table patio will be open; curbside pickup of booze is also available. It’s a radical change for the East Room which lasted six years and provided a space for DJs and live music.
“During the pandemic, there’s really no such thing as clubbing,” Eastman says.
Waving goodbye to East Room is bittersweet. Eastman was proud of his “tiny little spot in Logan Square.” The same clientele is welcome at Easy Does It; Eastman wants to host diverse crowds. Without prompting, Eastman mentions the Black Lives Matter movement, and how protests are long overdue. While the bar does focus on natural wine, something many folks aren’t yet familiar with, he wants to stress accessibility. And he wants to bring in BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) wine producers.
They’ll pour craft beer and cocktails, too. Folks can order with their phones and the decreases contact with servers. Eastman says he’s operating with a shoestring budget. He and business partner Blake Witsman saw funding vanish since February as the pandemic made investors nervous. He doesn’t blame anyone for pulling funding. There are so many unknowns: “Nobody was alive during the 1918 pandemic building bars. I think?” Eastman says.
Still, Eastman is thankful for industry support, saying that he feels privileged to be in a position to open a business in these times. One of the groups that’s helping is Just Coast, which helps with branding an identity.
Instead of a normal opening, where owners are picking out the final touches for decor, Eastman find himself ensuring social distance standards are being met. They’ve brought back most of the staff from East Room (there are about seven). Customers will only be allowed inside to use the rest rooms which have foot pedals so doors can open without hands touching the surfaces.
But with a few months left of warm weather in Chicago for 2020, Eastman says they’re going to capitalize. Eastman was also the co-founder of Saved by the Max, the pop-up based on the 1990s NBC show Saved by the Bell. Last week it returned to Chicago for carryout service out of Dorian’s, Eastman’s Wicker Park restaurant. Hospitality workers were able to make a few extra unexpected dollars because of the pop-culture property. And that’s a boon.
But Easy Does It is a different animal. He’s been working on the concept since 2019, but this isn’t something with the benefit of a built-in audience powered by nostalgia.
“This isn’t a concept that went viral, this is a concept that we had in the tank for a while,” Eastman says.
They’ll eventually welcome folks into inside to browse the wines, but the entire inventory is available online. Patio customers can also order bottles. Even with an added corkage fee, Eastman says there are great deals, with prices as low as half of what folks would normally pay. He’s particularly excited by wines from a Vermont vineyard, CO Cellars. Leon is mix of apples, cranberries and a hybrid wine grape from Vermont. Folks can also order mixed drinks with their phone by specifying a spirit and mixer. That’s something new, and customers will have to adjust.
Keeping customers and workers safe is a priority. Eastman says he wants feedback if visitors feel uneasy. He’s willing to make changes to keep people comfortable. Easy Does it will slowly open other aspects of its business, but on Friday, the bar officially opens its patio to the public.