The Marszewski family, owners of Bridgeport businesses — like Marz Community Brewing and Maria’s Packaged Goods and Tavern — have long connected their projects under the banner “the community of the future.” On Friday, they turn their attentions to the North Side to unveil their newest — Life on Marz Community Club — a junior-sized version of their South Side taproom.
Life on Marz neighbors iconic ice cream shop Margie’s Candies and board game cafe Snakes and Lattes. The three share a unique wedge-shaped block buttressed by Western, Armitage, and Milwaukee avenues near the border of Bucktown and Logan Square. So does that mean Bucktown is now considered part of Marz’s community of the Marszewski’s community-building efforts?
“Bucktown’s always been part of the community of the future,” says Ed Marszewski, pointing out that before he moved to Bridgeport, he lived a few blocks from the new taproom.
The taproom, announced in 2019, gives Marz an additional presence, a place for direct-to-customer sales and to pick up new beer releases — maybe even paczki. Two coolers to the left of the bar are stocked with cans and bottles of beer and non-alcoholic drinks like Marz’s CBD seltzers and sodas. Eventually, Marszewski wants to host live radio broadcasts and other ventures from the space. This is a classic Chicago third place away from home and work, something the pandemic has blurred with kitchens and dining rooms becoming defacto office cubicles for so many.
Entering off the Western Avenue side, customers will be greeted by 14 LED banner displays offering a variety of colorful messages. The entryway installation sets the tone for the space; Marszewski has long been a supporter of the arts, wanting customers to grab a bite of culture with the beer and food they may consume at one of his venues.
The taproom’s kitchen is tiny, so don’t expect the same treats as served on the South Side, where Mom’s supplies crispy katsu sandwiches for Marz’s flagship. It’s a simple menu with Depression-style hot dogs and Polish sausages supplied by century-old South Side butcher extraordinaire Makowski Real Sausage — it provides the Italian sausages used as toppings at the Marszewskis’ smash hit Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream. And don’t expect to find ketchup — Marszewski’s 10-year-old daughter asked for a packet. Her father suggest that she venture next door to Margie’s and ask. As taprooms and old-school taverns are kid friendly, Life on Marz will welcome children as long as they’re watched over by a responsible adult.
The are 14 taps with core beers like Chug Life, the Miller High Life-inspired larger, and Jungle Boogie, a pale wheat ale with South African tea. Other opening beers include Ame No Uzume (saison with Japanese sansho peppercorns and Indian coriander) and Marz Instant Oats (a 6-percent ABV stout with notes of fruit and coffee).
But COVID-19 brings a new wrinkle to this. Running a restaurant safely during a pandemic is something they practiced last summer in Bridgeport, and now his team will apply those lessons in Bucktown. For example, ordering is done via QR codes with runners bringing items to tables. Marszewski says he’s going to eventually apply for temporary patio seating. But while he’s fully vaccinated, he understands apprehension. They’re staggering seats with seven small tables that seat pairs, and three long tables with room for six each.
“You should not come here unless you feel safe,” Marszewski says.
The sense of the community is serious. Last year, ownership established the donation-driven Community Kitchen, giving out meals to seniors, hospitals, and other civic groups which distributed meals to those in need during the pandemic. The feeling extends to the people who designed the taproom, with Marz enlisting several of its trusted colleagues. This benign synergy extends to the food with the aforementioned sausages, but its also offering Tony B’s Steak Chips from chef Tony Balestreri. The room’s design was handled by Adi Goodrich and Charlie Vinz.
Marszewski takes those rapports seriously, but for the man nicknamed “Ed Mar,” the pandemic hasn’t stripped him of humor. On the shelf to the left of the entrance to the taproom, there’s a variety of items for sale including Marz beer glasses and shirts. An orange fez also sits on the lower shelf out of place. While talking to Marszewski about the community club aspect of the taproom, the fez took on an additional meaning. While David Bowie’s classic Life on Mars naturally inspired the name, Marszewski mentioned community clubs in Europe and groups like the fez-wearing Shriners, Stone Cutters. and Odd Fellows.
“This is a not-so-secret society club,” he says.
Take a tour through the space in the photos below. Life on Marz Community Club opens 4 p.m. Friday.
Life on Marz Community Club, 1950 N. Western Avenue, opening hours are 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday; 2 p.m. and 11 p.m on Saturday; noon to 8 p.m on Sunday.