WestEnd, a sports bar near the United Center that’s been a popular pre- and postgame stop for Blackhawks and Bulls fans, will close this weekend after 14 years on the Near West Side, a victim of the pandemic. COVID-19 kept fans away from the arena the last two seasons, while cancelled sports events across the country meant fewer games for the bar to show on live TV.
But the space won’t be vacant. The tavern’s owners, Four Corners (Federales, Gaslight, Benchmark), will convert WestEnd into a second location of Ranalli’s, its pizzeria that’s been in Lincoln Park for 45 years. A spokesperson for Four Corners reasons there’s been a large demand to-go food during the pandemic, and Ranalli’s menu excels at carryout options.
In Chicago, collegiate sports affiliations remain important, and WestEnd was one of the biggest bars for University of Michigan fans. A news release promises Ranalli’s West Loop will remain loyal to the Wolverines. There will still be 33 TVs and a 92-seat sidewalk cafe that management says will be dog friendly.
The transformation won’t be a mere name and menu change. Four Corners has brought in noted restaurant design firm Studio K to brighten up the space with modern fixtures and furnishings. Artist Anthony Lewellen will decorate the dining room, and there’s also a mural planned for the inside.
The United Center opened in 1994, in the middle of Michael Jordan’s tenure with the Bulls. The area around the arena did not have many bars at the time. By the time WestEnd opened more than a decade later, many bars and restaurants had already sprouted up near the Madhouse on Madison. But neighbors considered the spot a reliable place to chat with friends and nosh on fried appetizers. The bar offered shuttles to and from the UC
WestEnd will close on Sunday, August 8. Ranalli’s West Loop should be ready by the time the Bulls and Hawks start their seasons.
Ranalli’s West Loop, 1326 W. Madison Street, planned for an October opening.