In a stunning turn of events, 378 bars, almost twenty-five percent of the licensed taverns in Chicago, today received early-morning notice from the Mayor’s Office of Planning and Development that effective immediately, their liquor licenses are being revoked. This includes long-standing city favorites such as The Berghoff, proud holder of Liquor License #1, issued after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.
What brought about this unprecedented move by the mayor’s office, one certain to put a huge dent in revenue at a time when hopes for a surge in business, after a horrid winter, were at their highest? Apparently it’s that Chicago sore point again: charter schools.
According to documents acquired by Bar Native, it appears that the City of Chicago plans on purchasing what will now be severely devalued properties, and using TIF funds, will convert each of these spaces into charter school classrooms. While large spaces such as River North’s American Junkie, and Pilsen’s recently opened Dusek’s/Thalia Hall seem ideal for these purposes, other bars slated for closure couldn’t appear more ill-suited. The most surprising bar on the list? That would be the notoriously tiny Matchbox on Milwaukee Avenue. One regular bar patron of the Matchbox, who wishes to remain anonymous asked, “Is the mayor freaking serious? This bar holds 15 people, tops! What kind of classroom is that going to make?” While the trend of smaller classrooms has been growing for years, this extreme approach seems puzzling.
While most owners and general mangers were hesitant to speak on the record while their attorneys were determining their legal options, Bar Native spoke to Jerry Smiler, general manager of Marty’s Sis-Boom-Bar, one of the affected taverns, located in Norwood Park. “This is horrible. It’s a clear misuse of public domain or whatever it’s called. We suffered through the second worst winter on record, just to be hit with this?”
Bar Native anticipates the mayor, or a high-ranking member of his office, to make an official statement at some point this morning.