Changes are on their way at 5 Rabbit Cerveceria, one of the Chicago area’s only Latinx-owned breweries. Andrés Araya and Mila Ramirez will close their suburban Bedford Park taproom and brewery the first week of November. It’s part of a series of moves that Ramirez says will help the nine-year brewery reinvent itself in the midst of the public health crisis.
Many know 5 Rabbit as the brewery that canned a beer mocking President Donald Trump’s hair after Trump said racist remarks about Mexicans while he running for election in 2016. 5 Rabbit had supplied a beer for the bar on top of Trump Tower Chicago. But after hearing Trump’s words, the brewery ended the business relationship. There was even a documentary about the matter that includes Matrix co-creator and brewery super fan Lilly Wachowski.
But beyond the Trump escapade, 5 Rabbit has established itself as a native Chicago brand. Sales were fine, even during the pandemic. Ramirez says it was just time to leave their suburban location and focus on opening a Chicago operation. She downplayed COVID-19’s affect on the move: “We’re going in a new direction, and I’ve waited for this for a long time,” Ramirez says, adding that she’s taking a larger role in the company.
In the spring, Ramirez says that she and her husband had to slam the brakes on a Pilsen project. The expected to have the new brewpub already open (they announced its plans for the new project in 2018). Ramirez says it didn’t feel right opening a new business with people falling ill and losing their jobs. That’s the reason it stopped a GoFundMe campaign for the project, they didn’t feel right taking money from people, Ramirez says.
But in other ways, Ramirez says the pandemic accelerated the decision-making processes for restaurants. Many restaurants that have closed during the last few months already stood on shaky financial ground, the pandemic was the final debilitating blow. COVID-19 has pressed owners to make decisions faster as savings accounts deplete.
While this is all happening developers, landlords, and banks are still desperately looking for stable businesses partners. That’s opened more doors for 5 Rabbit. Ramirez was cryptic but added that being closer to Chicago is important so it could be part of the larger Latinx community (Ramirez says she loves the inclusivity of the sometimes criticized “Latinx” label). Casa Humilde and Cruz Blanca join 5 Rabbit as breweries with Latinx owners, and over the years, 5 Rabbit has become a hub for the Latinx community. Ramirez talks about the joy she feels when community members remark about the good vibes after hearing music played at the brewpub. These are tunes they haven’t heard in a public setting in America, nostalgic songs they listened to while growing up. Ramirez mentions hosting a concert for Mexican rock band Cafe Tacuba that drew 400 people.
They’ve also turned to registering Latinas to vote. 5 Rabbit’s specialty beers are called Las Chingonas, which the brewery interprets as a woman who hustles. Ramirez has taken that spirit in working with Mujeres Latinas en Accion and Poor People’s Campaign.
Ramirez says their core beers, including a new batch of the beer that makes fun of the president’s hair, are ready. But after November, they’ll need to find a new place to make their beer. Expect an announcement on that and on a new brewpub to come later this year.
“I loved the Bedford Park location, it’s hard to let go,” Ramirez says. “But I think it’s time to move on.”
The Tribune first reported news of the move.