WICKER PARK — A tavern on Division Street that has remained vacant since the 1970s could be reopening after more than 40 years.
One neighboring businessman calls the space, in the 2100 block of West Division, "one of the last vintage places on the street."
Much has changed in Wicker Park over four decades — the once-frayed neighborhood has gentrified into a hip enclave.
A Tribune news account tells part of the story: the bar's owner was behind the bar when someone posing as a customer pulled a handgun and announced a stickup.
The 63-year-old bar owner "lunged at the gunman and was shot once in the left side," the news account said. The robber escaped with $800.
The owner's widow, now 90, said her husband died at nearby St. Elizabeth's Hospital, though it was unclear if he died from wounds suffered in the robbery or from another cause.
The bar closed and has remained untouched since the owner passed away, though the space, according to sources, now exists as a 1970s time capsule, with a mirror behind the bar and tin ceilings.
The owner of Division Gold, a pawn shop at 2112 W. Division St., said that "Many people have eyed the vacant bar" over the decades, including himself.
The pawnbroker said that he had hoped to open "a '70s throwback bar" in that space.
"It has a beautiful long wood bar," he said. "It's an amazing spot in a good location, and it will do great as a bar again. I hope whoever rents it leaves it as-is."
That may be the case.
The space is being rented by a bar owner on Division Street, who hopes to expand his operations, said Cirque Realty broker Nataliya Nedoshytko. The unidentified new tenant plans to move into the space in May and open in July, provided he is able to obtain a new liquor license.
The tenant plans to keep the bar intact and "as-is," as it was in the 1970s, she said.