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Cunneen's Reopens After Collapsed Ceiling Repaired

By Benjamin Woodard | February 25, 2013 2:58pm

ROGERS PARK — For Stephen Cunneen, it's back to serving the "old geezers" at the neighborhood dive he founded 40 years ago.

The four-decade stretch was interrupted for 29 days at Cunneen's as crews worked to replace a drop ceiling that collapsed, sending regulars scrambling and the bartender diving under her beer taps.

Cunneen wasn't too upset he missed out on Super Bowl business because he said the tavern was "more of an old geezer kind of place."

"Everything's back together," he said. "We've been working like crazy here for the last few weeks."

The bar officially opened at noon Monday, but John Paluch, who has an intimate bond with the place, was there 10 minutes early.

"It looks like it did before," the 70-year-old regular said while sipping on a mug of coffee and a whiskey neat.

Paluch said he had his first drink at Cunneen's about 30 years ago with his then-wife.

They had walked in from the street after eating dinner to continue a conversation about splitting up for good.

"I remember sitting right here," he said, pointing to a pair of empty bar stools. "We decided for certain we were getting a divorce."

Now a picture from the '70s hangs on the wall showing Paluch and other neighborhood guys posing in their baseball uniforms from when Cunneen managed a team that played at Loyola Park.

The bar — with its 50 cents-a-game pool table and antique phone booth — looks the same as before. One benefit of the collapse was the landlord installed an air-conditioning unit and ceiling fans.

The well-recognized glowing clock above the bar, known simply as "The Daley Clock" for its likeness of Chicago's most-famous mayor, was still being repaired and should be back to its rightful spot by Wednesday, said bartender Janet Pratt, who was nearly walloped by the collapsing ceiling in January.

As the hour drew closer to 1 p.m., other bar patrons began to wander in.

"Oh, it's good to be back," said James Garrido, 24, as he pulled up a chair next to the bar and ordered a beer.

He's lived in the neighborhood for five years and comes into Cunneen's on Mondays and Tuesdays, his days off.

"It looks great," he said. "It's fantastic to be back."

Paluch said he usually comes in once a week on Tuesdays with a dozen other regulars — many retired or close to it — as part of a weekly meeting dubbed the "Old Timers" group.

When he heard Cunneen's was open for business Monday, he had to stop in.

"What always drew me to this place was the windows," he said of the large panes facing the street, filling the old bar with winter sunshine.