The veteran bar owners behind LGBTQ neighborhood bar favorites SoFo Tap and Meeting House Tavern in Andersonville will on Thursday open the doors to their newest venue on the North Side: 2Bears Tavern Uptown, a dog-friendly watering hole for the queer community with playful shot-and-beer “handshakes,” free pinball, and aesthetic nods to Chicago’s Jazz Age.
Tucked inside the former home of Nick’s on Wilson at 1140 W. Wilson Avenue near the CTA’s Wilson Red Line El stop, 2Bears Uptown aims to deliver a slightly more upscale atmosphere than the dive bar-esque SoFo Tap, but its owners plan to maintain the unpretentious, atmosphere they’ve cultivated at their other venues. “It’s definitely a come-as-you-are, no-attitude space,” says co-owner Mike Sullivan. “We’re not about $14 cocktails or fancy new-wave concoctions — we have bartenders, not mixologists.”
Bar patrons can expect eight draft beers and a handful of reliable bottled and canned brews such as Lagunitas IPA, Half Acre’s Daisy Cutter, and Tecate. Other drink options include classics like Old Fashioneds and margaritas, four types of mules (Moscow, Kentucky, mezcal, and Dark & Stormy), and a quartet of “handshake” combos that expand on the tradition of the original Chicago Handshake (a shot of Jeppson’s Malört and an Old Style). New combos include the Halsted Handy (Fireball and a rotating draft cider) and the Suburban Fist-Bump (Tullamore D.E.W. and a Busch Light tallboy). Like its predecessor, 2Bears Uptown will have a 4 a.m. late-night liquor license.
The bar’s long, narrow space seats 42 at bar stools and high-top tables with room for standing patrons toward the back. Chicago-based design firm d + k Architects (also behind the dazzling interior at Adalina in Gold Coast) has woven 1920s-era elements throughout, including pressed tin ceilings, copper finishes, and custom stained-glass windows. These contrast with the pinball machines and darts, a retro-looking jukebox, and gaming stations where patrons can play on Nintendo Switches.
Sullivan and business partner Mark Robertson also co-own the queer nightclub Jackhammer in Rogers Park and worked with landmark LGBTQ sports bar Crew before it closed in 2017 in Uptown. Now, five years later, the pair find themselves back near their old stomping grounds amid significant developments in the area, including the long-awaited new location of the venerated Double Door and new apartment complexes currently under construction. “We’re really excited about the location on Wilson because the area is exploding with residential and entertainment growth over the past few years,” Sullivan says.
2Bears Tavern Uptown, 1140 W. Wilson Avenue, Scheduled to open Thursday, March 10.