USA Today: Neighborhood Taverns Disappear From Chicago, Other Cities

From USA Today:

What used to be Johnnie's Lounge is empty now, though a fading Hamm's Beer sign still hangs over its locked door. Paulie's Place is vacant. So is the spot once occupied by Max Tavern. The building that housed Lawry's Tavern starting in 1937 is now home to a more upscale bar.

Neighborhood taverns, which for generations were cornerstones of Chicago's ethnic communities, are being squeezed out by the economy, gentrification, changing tastes and city regulations that make it more difficult to operate in residential areas.

"Hopefully they won't disappear," says Scott Martin, owner of Simon's Tavern, which has served patrons in Andersonville, once a Swedish enclave, since 1934. It's a cliché, says Martin, 51, but "it's great to go someplace where everybody knows your name."

It's still possible to find old-school taverns that cater to neighborhoods and serve inexpensive beverages, says Sean Parnell, who wrote the 2010 book Historic Bars of Chicago and runs the Chicago Bar Project,, which chronicles the city's bar scene and tracks the demise of such spots.

"There aren't many of them around anymore," he says. "You really can't get a tavern license in areas that have regentrified … and the costs for licensing and insurance have really gone up."


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