Nobody’s Darling, a lively and diverse Andersonville LGBTQ bar and 2022 James Beard Award finalist, may embark on an expansion that would nearly double its capacity if officials approve the project.
Co-owners Angela Barnes and Renauda Riddle have requested a zoning change that would allow them to operate a tavern in the bar’s neighboring space at 1746 W. Balmoral Avenue and are awaiting approval from 40th Ward Ald. Andre Vasquez. Should Vasquez issue a letter of support, Chicago’s City Council will consider the proposal at a meeting on Tuesday, January 17.
Though they’re hesitant to raise expectations in the midst of the approval process, Barnes and Riddle say they’re heartened by an overwhelmingly positive response to the plan from locals. “It’s important for us to continue to have a positive relationship with the community,” says Barnes. “It’s our first go-around of running a bar, and we do sit smack-dab in the middle of a residential area. That can be challenging, so we try to be sensitive and make sure we’re being good neighbors.”
If Nobody’s Darling is allowed to move forward, the co-owners plan to create a 10-foot opening in the wall that currently divides the spaces, growing the capacity from 65 to 110. The pair hope to cultivate a lounge atmosphere in the new space with low seating and a smaller second bar.
“We love the [current] vibe but thought it would be neat to experiment with having a slightly different feel, something a little more comfortable and elevated,” says Barnes.
Riddle adds: “We also need to have the ability to produce more cocktails, and for the winter months when everybody comes inside, we need that additional space as well.”
Nobody’s Darling opened in September 2021 in the former home of Joie de Vine, a wine bar described by many at the time as the last lesbian bar in Chicago. Two of only three Black LGBTQ bar owners in the city — alongside Jamal Junior of South Shore fixture Jeffery Pub — Riddle and Barnes found themselves at the forefront of a national conversation around the disappearance of lesbian bar spaces in the U.S. as well as the future of transgender inclusion in queer taverns and nightlife. Their message — one of openness and joy — is one that has resonated far beyond Andersonville.
“We’ve been surprised by how much this space was needed,” says Riddle. “We have people who travel from the South Side and West Side, from Wisconsin and Indiana. We are constantly surprised every week, every month, we’re still seeing new people come through the door.”
Officials are expected to issue decisions on the proposed expansion before the end of January. Stay tuned for updates.