A wine shop and bar in the West Loop not only survived the pandemic, but also served as a safe space for hospital staff working long hours and treating COVID-19 patients at the facilities at the nearby Illinois Medical District.
Hospitality veterans Derrick Westbrook, Tim Williams, and Danielle Lewis, felt a responsibility to their weary customers to follow safety protocols and give them a space to unwind during those challenging times.
“People are putting themselves on the line to save lives,” Williams says. “We can’t be lazy by not wearing masks.”
Once the government removed pandemic restrictions, Juice @ 1340 was free to relaunch on Juneteenth, aided by Westbrook — a star sommelier who’s worked at lauded restaurants such as Elizabeth and Next. Williams has worked with Pour Souls, a consultancy that throws pop-ups to show customers how to mix proper drinks. Lewis has worked for Boka Restaurant Group at restaurants like GT Fish & Oyster and GT Prime, overseeing cocktails programs for several of the James Beard Award-winning group’s venues.
“That’s what makes us dangerous in the field,” Westbrook says. “We have three people who have been in this business for a long period of a time, who are at the height of their games.”
Westbrook’s been involved in the shop since 2019 when he helped redesign the space formerly known as 1340 BWS. The shop closed on New Year’s Eve, as founder Cody Berek moved to Denver. The rebranded shop has a multi-layered mission: The first is to give customers a unique experience. Beyond being a next-generation slashie — the hybrid bar and liquor stores that made Chicago unique — Williams wants to host private parties. If events are larger than 50 people, they want to provide servers and curated beverages for off-site events. Ownership also hopes to serve as a pop-up space for emerging culinary talent with beer and wine dinners.
While there’s no magic number the three are targeting, they want to grow the Juice brand and open more locations.
Westbrook is here once again as an enabler, not only using his wine knowledge to curate the wine list, but helping to develop a pipeline of existing talent in the hospitality industry — members, including those from marginalized communities, who don’t have the benefits of an extensive network: “We want to be a hub,” Westbrook says, while Lewis adds how the need to be “community minded” and inclusive factor strong in their philosophy, making this bottle shop and bar unique.
One of the bar’s main draws is something they call Fresh Press — an informal series usually held on Fridays where the team will unleash some rare spirits and other drinks to show off to the crowd. For folks who’ve done tastings at vineyards, this is where staff can share the stories behind the wine. The staff at Juice want to take a similar approach, but with a Chicago twist. Atmospheric tweaks like selecting the right music and figuring out ways to make wine sound less “annoying” are what Westbrook and company want to showcase.
The success of the event also comes from the fact that customers feel comfy. The interiors are a melange of mid-Century modern decor and, well, whatever Williams and the crew felt looked cool: “We had this big six-figure idea and gave it to the contractor and designer,” Williams adds. “There was a massive wish list. Then they gave us a real number. That real number was very high.”
So instead, they gunned for a more comfy feel with the ethos that “they don’t have to be Blind Barber,” or have the look of a trendy club.
“We want to be your neighborhood bottle shop,” Westbrook says.
Juice @ 1340, 1340 W. Madison Street, open 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday.