RIVER NORTH — The Boss Bar is back in business after a brief Health Department shutdown last month, and construction is underway to enlarge and upgrade the River North dive.
The city slapped a closed sign on the popular 4 a.m. bar last month after Health Department inspectors found cockroaches, flies and leaks during an inspection, according to city records.
The shutdown lasted two days. Now it's reopened, with construction in full swing both inside and out. On the sidewalk outside the bar, the city is reclaiming some underground storage space used by the Boss.
The work inside, however, is all about expansion.
The work isn't expected to end until late October, according to Rohi Moradi, a manager whose brother owns the bar.
When it's complete, the bar will have doubled to fill the adjacent storefront on the west side with a second bar, pizza oven, more restaurant seating and a "family-style environment," according to bartender Lana Tek.
"It's gonna be weird to see how the people that go to that side [will coexist with] the dive bar still on this side," Tek said. "For the first couple months, how is it gonna be? The clientele — is it gonna be bougie over there, and then a dive bar over here? I really can't wait to see that.
"I'm gonna look over and there's gonna be suits and ties, and — well, I mean there's suits and ties here — but it's gonna be a different, maybe more family-style environment," she said.
Renovation plans include more bathrooms on the lower level and a "private lounge area" downstairs, said Pablo Ortiz, a busboy and cook at the bar.
In the meantime, employees say the exterior construction at the southwest corner of Clark and Hubbard Streets has slowed business at the bar, which has been open during renovations.
Ortiz said the bar previously had storage space under the sidewalk.
"I guess our property expanded outward under the sidewalk, so the city wants to take it back," Ortiz said. "Underneath there was a big closet where we'd just store stuff, but when ComEd and all them went down there and they saw, they were like, oh, we should take this back actually."
Tek said "business has been kind of slow" since construction started last week.
"It's really hurting business, because people walking by are like, 'Oh, they're closed,'" said Ortiz, who also said he misses the breeze when the bar's sidewalk-facing, garage-style door is open.
Ortiz said street construction should be done by the end of this week.