GOLD COAST — When Mother's opened at 26 W. Division St. in 1968, it had one beer on tap — Old Style — and a glass would set you back 60 cents.
The bar has weathered a few changes, including a tenfold increase in the number of TVs inside and the addition of a few new booths and 29 more beers.
But longtime staff member Chris Ryan says the Division Street staple, which celebrates its 45th birthday on Wednesday, still looks largely the same as it did the day it opened.
"The principal theme, specifically, of the Original Mother's was to be a meeting place, a place where the awkwardness between the male and female patrons sort of subsides," said Ryan, who started selling beers on the floor back in 1968 but is now a co-owner.
Elements like movable chairs and shared tables, and a steady stream of music and entertainment, helped establish that vibe early on, Ryan said.
The origins of the "Mother's" name are not clear, its current owners say, but they speculate that since it was underground, "it may have been a nod to hanging out in 'your Mother's basement,'" a spokeswoman said.
The bar, which was renamed Original Mother's when Mother's Too opened a few doors down, has no shortage of female patrons today. Ryan says the bar has become a hub for bachelorette parties: proof it's still a place where women "can celebrate and not have to worry about it — about men," he said, and "just celebrate because you're happy."
If anything, today's Mother's may be more similar to the early '70s version than ever before. Ryan says there's been a resurgence in demand for live music.
The Division Street bar's early shows included performances by the Velvet Underground, Chicago and Cream.
"Chaka Khan was kind of our house band," Ryan said. "It was this band called Ask Rufus and they had this amazing vocalist that nobody really knew."
At 8:30 p.m., Lodge Management — which owns Original Mother's and several other bars on Division Street — will unveil its "Wall of Fame" featuring memorabilia from 45 years of music performances, including a guitar signed by recently deceased rocker Lou Reed. Its launch follows the formal designation of the stretch of Division Street between North State and Dearborn streets as the "Division Street Entertainment District" in 2009.
The Original Mother's will unveil a new Martin Audio sound system at Wednesday's event. Ryan said the space will always be improving, but owners will strive to keep the venue's "vibe" much the same as it was when he first joined the team in '68.
At this point it's "part bar, part museum," Ryan said. The bar gained wide fame from the 1986 Chicago-set romantic comedy About Last Night, in which Rob Lowe and Jim Belushi gathered at "Mother's" to discuss their love lives.
"It's always been about people feeling comfortable where they are, whatever way they can, and I think it still serves that purpose."
But these days, most beers will set you back several dollars more than in 1968.