Lost Lake, the award-winning tropical cocktail bar that regularly saw lines out its front door in Logan Square, will permanently close after service on Saturday, January 15 — nearly seven years to the day after it first opened on Diversey Avenue. News of the closure comes about five months after the bar reopened following an 18-month pandemic-related hiatus.
“We’ve been trying to ward off this moment since #flattenthecurve, but as it turns out, a super-spreader surge that wiped-out what would usually be our busiest time of year was the last little straw this camel could handle,” ownership wrote Friday morning on Facebook. “Maybe someday we’ll be back in one form or another, but it looks like this is it for now ... Thank you so much for all the support, from our very first day until this one. You’ve made a lot of dreams come true over here.”
The first cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant hit Chicago in early December and surged the weekend before Christmas, leading to mass cancelations of holiday parties and other celebrations at bars. Lost Lake itself returned to takeout-only operations on December 22, canceling its own New Year’s Eve party and attempting to draw in customers with bottled cocktails and discounts on drinks and glassware.
For its final weekend, though, starting Thursday, January 13, Lost Lake will open its doors for in-person service.
Founded in 2015 by well-known tiki barman Paul McGee (Three Dots and a Dash) and Shelby Allison, Lost Lake debuted as a tribute to 1930s-era tiki culture with a rotating menu of traditional and creative drinks, along with Polynesian-style trappings like bamboo stools, leaf-patterned wallpaper, and orb-like pufferfish light fixtures. The bar almost immediately began drawing long lines of rum-thirsty patrons, and local buzz quickly escalated to recognition from national food media. It received several James Beard Foundation semifinalist and finalist nods, and was named Best American Cocktail Bar at the 2018 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. The bar is part of Chicago-based hospitality group Land & Sea Dept., also behind hits like Longman & Eagle and Parson’s Chicken & Fish.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on every corner of the hospitality industry, including Lost Lake, which switched over to bottled cocktails during the first indoor dining shutdown in 2020 and began offering digital subscriptions for fans. Despite these efforts, Allison in March 2021 told Eater that the bar had yet to turn a profit during the pandemic.
Despite its popularity among critics and drinkers, Lost Lake also experienced controversy. Like many tiki bars, it was the subject of criticism among BIPOC bartenders for appropriating flavors and imagery from Afro-Caribbean and Polynesian culture, notably glassware designed to resemble carvings used across the South Pacific to represent deified ancestors. Some bartenders shared their concerns with Allison and said she ignored them.
But when Lost Lake reopened in September, it announced that it had rebranded as a “tropical” bar rather than tiki, serving drinks that originated in the tropics, such as mojitos and pina coladas, and that the bar would now be managed by Shannon Grant.
“It’s become clear that tiki culture cannot be divorced from cultural appropriation and colonialism, which is the reason for the shift to ‘tropical,’” Carrie Sloan, a spokeswoman, said at the time.
In addition to changes to the drink offerings, an expanded food menu from chef Fred Noinaj, and a new no-tipping policy, Lost Lake’s revamped menu included a link to a list of readings on tiki culture prepared by the Pasifika Project, a group that supports hospitality workers of Oceanic descent.
Bar leadership declined to expand on its social media statement, though Sloan wrote to Eater in an email: “Lost Lake is just grateful for all the support over the last seven years, and particularly the past two.”