The owners of pubby-meets-clubby Bull & Bear opened their second concept last week: a “night pub,” they call it. Public House, a beer-centric, 10,000-square-foot monster of a drinking space in River North again caters to the dual crowd of pub-goers and DJ/live performer followers. With 25 or more beers on draft and 75 by the bottle, a menu of smoked meats, comfort foods, soups and sauces infused with more beer, lots of wood, warm colors and fireplace seating, Public House on the surface resembles your typical gastropub. Even the menu is beer-focused, with emoticons to indicate lightness, alcohol content and style of the beers, from features representing light brews, mini rabbits for hoppy ales and boxing gloves for stronger Belgian brews that pack a punch.
The bar also brings in nightclub features including a focus on technology and a top-of-the-line sound system, celebrity appearances and plenty of guest DJs thanks to live in-house performances most nights of the week.
“What makes it a ‘night pub’ is that we’re going from lunch to happy hour to dinner to sports watching to late night concerts,” says Keegan Moon, director of operations. “There are so many different elements going on throughout the course of the day. It’s exciting to watch the space change.”
The centralized DJ booth and collapsible stage will also showcase encore concerts by performers coming from the House of Blues next door. “In many places the DJ booth is hidden, but by putting the DJ booth in the center of the room it helps bring the energy level up and gives customers something to look at.”
After a successful test run at Bull & Bear with table beer taps, Public House has brought these taps here, too, which will dole out beer and six different liquor options by the ounce as well. At the elevated private space toward the back of the bar, customers can purchase key fobs to access wall taps for more self-serve drinking, says Moon. They’ll have the option to put as many dollars as they want on the fobs ahead of time, similar to a retail card. The taps will also be a focus for special events so guests don’t have to fight crowds to get to the bar for a drink.
In addition to the beer and liquor taps, tables will also house mini-computers with screens that allow guests to share messages with and send rounds of drinks to other tables using Bluetooth wireless rubber keyboards. They also monitor the ounces poured from the taps, but at the moment, they don’t allow guests to order their own drinks.