BUCKTOWN — Marie's Rip Tide Lounge, which opened in 1951, closed its doors for the last time Saturday night, but not before going "out with a bang," said owner Tina Congenie.
Congenie, the owner of the legendary dive bar at 1745 W. Armitage in Bucktown, said she officially closed a deal this week to sell the bar to its next-door neighbor, Bulley & Andrews.
Before the bar closed, Marie's featured a live band, a disc jockey and a raffle to give away some of the bar's memorabilia. That includes items like a 120-year-old cash register and the bar's original Zenith radio.
Congenie, 49, said "a couple factors," including financial stress, weighed into her decision to sell the bar and its building, which is also where she lives.
"People are not happy about me closing," Congenie said Saturday. "I didn't want to let go, but sometimes you gotta let go."
After news broke earlier this week the bar was closing for good, Congenie said longtime patrons have been stopping by to wax nostalgic.
"I've got old timers coming in the past couple nights that I haven't seen in like 18, 20 years, and that's what they're bringing up, fun memories," she said.
Congenie said many of those memories include Marie Wuczynski, who founded the bar. When Wuczynski passed away in 2011, she willed ownership of the bar to Congenie, who said she would be using proceeds from the sale to find a new place to live.
On Saturday, Congenie and others shared stories about Wuczynski, like the time she appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Congenie said Wuczynski was "happiest girl in the world" with a bottle of Jagermeister and a pack of cigarettes and said she was always ready with a joke.
"She had the strength of 50 men, the brains of 100, and the heart of a million," Congenie said.
Closing weekend also coincided with Congenie's birthday. Her son, Leon Congenie, said the staff planned to surprise her with a birthday cake on Saturday night.
The well-known dive bar saw its share of celebrities in its time. In addition to Conan O'Brien, actors like Bill Murray, John Belushi, Vince Vaughn and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler have stopped in for a drink.
Leon Congenie said has so many great memories at Marie's but has always managed to miss when celebrities make an appearance.
"Every time something really good happened, I was sleeping upstairs," he said. "Like when Cutler was in here or Vince Vaughn was in here, I was sleeping."
Matt Duhaime, who manned the bar Saturday night, said he would remember Marie's not for the celebrities but as a place where people could come and "be accepted for who you are."
"This place has the heart and soul of this neighborhood, and it's the last place like it," Duhaime said.
Duhaime, who said he has been coming to Marie's for the last nine years, said news of the closing had not sunk in yet.
"Like George Harrison says, all things must pass, and I won't believe it 'til it's really done," he said.
The bar had previously been on the brink of closing before being bailed out by a personal loan in February, but it wasn't enough.
Congenie said she closed the sale of the 3,600-square-foot building at the southwest corner of Armitage and Hermitage avenues to her immediate neighbor, contractors Bulley & Andrews on Thursday.
In January, the construction firm next to the bar offered to pay $550,000 for the building, but Congenie took a $150,000 loan from friend Richard Parrillo to keep the bar going.
At that time, Congenie was under pressure to come up with $120,000 to pay the heirs of Wuczynski.
Congenie said she is unsure what Bulley & Andrews will do with the space but said she believes it will ultimately be leveled to make room for parking.
"You know what I wish they would do if they do make a parking lot?" she said. "They should put on the side of the building 'Marie's Parking Lot.' "
Patron Matt Bonkovich, of Roscoe Village, stopped to hug Congenie and wish her a happy birthday before he left the bar Saturday evening.
Bonkovich said he will most miss the ambiance of the place.
"The staff, they know you when you come in the door, acknowledge you," he said. "They make you feel good when you come in."
Congenie said she will miss that, but said it is time for her to start a new chapter in her life.
"I'm gonna be sad, of course," she said. "I've been here my whole life, so it's gonna be hard."
Contributing: Alisa Hauser