Like many office workers, the staff at Northworks, an architecture firm near the Elston Industrial Corridor, like to go out for a drink together after work. When the building next door to their office came up for sale, they bought it, and when the tenant, an automotive garage, moved out, they saw an opportunity: to have their own very conveniently-located bar and show off — and sell —the work of their interior designers and their favorite artists.
Now the bar and gallery, called Dusk, is open to the public. Why Dusk? Because, says Bill Bickford, a Northworks partner and also its cofounder, that’s the point in the day when you start thinking about a drink. The bar is in Pulaski Park, close to Elston and North avenues and south of the Hideout Inn, Local Foods, Ada Street, and Hinoki Sushiko. There are not a lot of happy hour spots within walking distance. Northworks took it upon themselves to create their own in between the future Lincoln Yards and Morton Salt development sites.
The 1,200-square-foot room is long and narrow, with the bar on one side and the gallery wall and seating on the other. Behind the bar, there’s a large photo mural of the sun setting in a pine forest. “It’s intended to send you beyond the urban environment,” says Bickford. “There’s a sense of fresh air and something that makes you feel like you’re in a more expansive space beyond our neighborhood.”
The cocktail menu evokes some of the Northworks team’s favorite places and celebrates some of their favorite projects. The Sand Valley, a tribute a resort in Nekoosa, Wisconsin, combines gin, orange bitters, honey saffron, and lemon, while the Jackson Hole, named for the Wyoming town where Northworks has another office, is mulled merlot wine with blood orange, apples, and spices. The beer and wine lists are short and simple, with nothing more expensive than $60 a bottle. “It’s not headache-hangover wine,” Bickford says. There’s no kitchen on-site, but there will be visiting food trucks.
The Northworks team deliberately chose a simple design in order to keep the attention focused on the art. The floor is black, the walls are white, and the bar and tables are wood to blend in with the mural; the only pops of color, aside from the art on the walls, are the green couches, which, Bickford promises are comfortable enough for a few drinks, but not for a drunken lie-down. They’re also portable so that the space can be used for other things besides drinking with friends and colleagues: eventually Northworks wants to rent it out as an event space. When the weather warms up, the patio will be open as well.
Dusk is not a typical gallery in that the staff is not, as Bickford puts it, “in sales mode,” but everything on the walls is for sale. The opening collection features the work of Lee Glazer, a specialist in pencil-drawn portraits and landscapes who has been working with Northworks for the past 15 years. As the work sells, more artists will be rotated in. Northworks will not be actively marketing itself at the bar, but customers who are curious to know more are welcome to visit the office next door.
At the moment, Dusk is open to the public just two days a week. Although Northworks has designed many bars and restaurants for clients (including Split-Rail in Humboldt Park and Ada Street in Bucktown), Bickford explains, this is its first foray in the bar business and, with ongoing concerns about COVID-19, the team decided not to rush the opening. But someday, in an ideal world, it will be open every night.
“It’s a great space,” Bickford says. “We love how it looks. We love how it feels. Our initial test parties have been fun. Now it’s time to take the next step — without forgetting our day jobs.”
Dusk, 1518 N. Throop Street, Open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday.