The pandemic has decimated tens of thousands of bars and restaurants across the country, including a popular tavern in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood.
The former owner of Guthries Tavern announced in July that the Addison Street and Lakewood watering hole would be closing permanently due to COVID-19 restrictions.
To the surprise of neighbors and longtime patrons, the bar reopened under new ownership on Friday with the same name and aesthetic inside, plus some upgrades.
“We just wanted to make sure it had modern HVAC and plumbing, while maintaining the existing vibe,” co-owner Mark Baldino said.
The new ownership group, consisting of two brothers and their business partner, said it was important to them to preserve Guthries’ legacy.
“People have been deeply affected by the closure of this bar,” Baldino said. “Our goal was to keep the same vibe and atmosphere.”
The bar is known for its board games and craft beer selection and as a popular hangout spot for a first or second date.
“A lot of people get engaged here or come here after getting engaged,” co-owner Matthew Baldino said. “It’s an easy and relaxed atmosphere and environment.”
The owners also retained the original ceiling tiles, which were hand painted by customers. However, they have upgraded the bathrooms, installed a new beer cooler and built an outdoor seating area.
“It really gave me chills to see people having a good time here,” said co-owner Brett Keeshin.
Customers could be seen filling the tavern on Monday afternoon, just three days after it reopened.
“One of my favorite places to set up a board game,” said customer Patrick Mahon. “It’s great that they kept the good look.”
“You hate to see businesses shut down due to the pandemic. It’s just good to see them bounce back. I know everyone’s excited,” client Jordan Swiderski said.
The new owners, who have all spent time at this bar in the past, consider it a “one-of-a-kind opportunity” they couldn’t pass up.
“I think what drove my desire to buy this was the number of neighborhood bars that have closed over the last 20 years, and more importantly during COVID,” Matthew Baldino said.
“I thought there was some value in saving a piece of Chicago history.”