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Nick's Uptown Employees and Regulars Dish on Closing of Neighborhood Staple

By Adeshina Emmanuel | September 6, 2013 1:27pm
 Nick's Uptown is closing Saturday.
Nick's Uptown
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UPTOWN — A day after learning that Nick's Uptown is closing for good this Saturday, employees and regulars reminisced about an establishment that has a sloppy side late at night, but was beloved by customers and deeply involved in the community.

Employees said the bar's general manager told them Wednesday that the owner was selling the building to Thorek Hospital, and that Nick's, 4015-4017 N. Sheridan Road, would be closing in just days.

Nick's occupies more than 7,000 square feet and boasts a huge bar, a second room with four pool tables and a private party space that holds nearly 100 people.

It is located in a 1920s building with a lot of history: designed by architect Paul Gerhard, it's been a car showroom, a jazz joint and a restaurant called the Cairo Supper Club that was firebombed by the mob in 1964.

It became Nick's in 2000. A bartender who has worked there for about five of the last eight years acknowledged that now that it's closing, "it's kind of scary to have to turn around and find a new job that fast."

The bar, which has a 4 a.m. license, is often slow on weekdays. But the action really picks up after other bars in the area close at 2 a.m.

"Most of our crowd is late-night, weekends," said one bartender.

Nick's has a reputation as a place where people who are already drunk come for a few more (possibly ill-advised) drinks before the night ends. It's a place where single folks often stage last ditch efforts at hooking up.

Uptown resident and Nick's regular Christopher Graham worked as a doorman at the bar on and off for about four years, but hasn't worked there since the beginning of the year. He remembers fun times chatting and drinking with familiar faces after a day of work.

But, "working here, the thing I'm going to remember most is probably cleaning up a lot of puke. And the interesting way that people will try to not throw up on themselves and throw up everywhere else," said Graham, 28. "Maybe that's just because I'm weird."

Graham and employees remember one late-night case of "three bros" hitting on women who each were in relationships with bar staffers. Graham went over to tell them to cut it out. The worst among the men was the drunkest, too, and he wouldn't let up, Graham said.

 Nick's Uptown, 4015 N. Sheridan Road.
Nick's Uptown, 4015 N. Sheridan Road.
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Facebook/ Nicks Uptown

Shortly after Graham told the companions to "handle their friend," the man vomited in his own empty glass.

And when Graham jokingly asked, "what are you drinking?" the man took a sip, as the story goes.

Staff also remember cleaning the place up in the early hours of the morning one weekend and then enjoying cigarettes outside when they heard strange sounds coming from inside Nick's.

They went back in and discovered three women — all in the same stall in the women's bathroom — coming to after passing out there.

But Graham and others said Nick's legacy in Uptown is about more than sordid stories, and Uptown isn't just losing a neighborhood bar but a community center, they said. The tavern has hosted everything from fundraisers to block club meetings to aldermanic election forums.

It isn't clear what will happen to the building. Thorek, which also owns a vacant lot next to Nick's, didn't respond to requests for comment.

Neighbors are wary of a possible demolition of a distinctive structure built in the Egyptian Revival style with Egyptian motifs. They hope it won't become another empty lot, and there have been cries for landmark designation to protect it.

Amy Keller, vice president and preservation chair of the Chicago Art Deco Society, a nonprofit preservation organization, said in a post on Uptown Update's Facebook page that, "many of us have visited Nick's and love the architecture.

"We would love to help," she said, encouraging concerned residents to reach out to her organization.

Nick Novich, the bar's owner, didn't return calls for comment.