LINCOLN SQUARE — When your last name is Mulligan, owning an Irish-themed pub seems like a no-brainer.
"It's nice to have something you can call your own," said Allison Mulligan, 27, who, along with brother John, 29, recently opened Mulligan's bar and grill at 5155 N. Lincoln Ave.
The two had been kicking around the "crazy idea" of buying a bar for some time and finally pulled the trigger this past spring.
It was love at first sight when they laid eyes on the Lincoln Square pub formerly known as Kaspers Place.
"The arches are probably my favorite thing," Allison said of the bar's interior brick detailing.
They took possession of the storefront in June, and while buying an existing bar would seem a straightforward proposition, the Mulligans found themselves with far more work on their hands than they had expected. Kitchen equipment was in a state of disrepair, the electricity needed rewiring and ceiling tiles required replacing.
"This has pretty much taken over our lives," she said.
The new owners performed much of the labor themselves while still holding down full-time jobs — Allison as an X-ray technician, John with the Cook County Forest Preserves — and recruited friends and family to help whip the place into shape.
"I'm glad the process is over," said Allison, who grew weary of painting stucco on her days off. "It took more time and money than we thought. But isn't that true for everything?"
Excited to open their newly refurbished doors, the Mulligans jumped the gun and began welcoming customers while still waiting on their liquor license.
"People have been coming in nonstop" to check on the status of the license, said Allison, who expects the city to issue the all-important piece of paper any day now.
The siblings, who both live in Jefferson Park, have made a point of emphasizing to patrons that Mulligan's is under new management.
"I want to make sure people know we have nothing to do with the previous owner," she said.
Kaspers never made use of its restaurant license, according to Allison, and catered almost exclusively to a Balkan clientele. Mulligan's aims to be more of a local watering hole.
"I just want to go for the neighborhood crowd," Allison said.
Though she said Mulligan's has a "jackpot location," with a steady stream of passing foot traffic, the bar will face stiff competition from Lincoln Square's already crowded pub scene.
In addition to swapping out Kaspers' red-and-black color palette for the requisite emerald green, Allison said Mulligan's has a few secret weapons up its sleeves.
For one, "we're cheaper," she said.
Where others charge an "arm and a leg" for a burger — up to $10 — the Mulligan Burger is priced at $6.95 (add fries for an extra buck). Not a single basic item on the menu costs more than $8.95.
An outdoor patio in back, dart leagues, live jazz music on Tuesdays, trivia nights and a sports TV package that could turn the bar into a hub for soccer fans are other incentives the Mulligans will dangle in front of customers.
And then there's the name, which denizens of Chicago's bar scene could be forgiven for confusing with Mulligans Public House, a Roscoe Village institution that coincidentally closed around the same time Mulligan's opened.
"That's fine," Allison said of the inadvertent association.
Patrons of the other Mulligans "can come on down" and find a new home. "It's a good Irish name," she said.