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Roadhouse 66 Looks to 'Rise From the Ashes' After Wrigleyville Fire

By Serena Dai | January 23, 2014 7:55am
 Owners of Roadhouse 66, a bar that burned down in a fire last fall, want to revive the concept at the former Sweet Baby Ray's location.
Roadhouse 66
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LAKEVIEW — Owners of Roadhouse 66 want to start "rising from the ashes" and revive the Clark Street bar that burned down last fall.

Matt Warner, Casey Bloemke and Drew Lynch approached Hawthorne Neighbors this week in hopes of gaining community approval for an incidental liquor license in the former Sweet Baby Ray's location, 3478 N. Clark St.

The location may be in the heart of Wrigleyville, but the crew said the new Roadhouse 66 would not be a "Cubs bar."

"A lot of people in our business get a bad rep," Bloemke said. "We want to be the antithesis of that."

Roadhouse 66's original location at 3330 N. Clark St., farther south in the neighborhood, burned down in October. Since then, the staff has worked at the Irish Oak, 3511 N. Clark St., and other area bars. Friends of the staff and fans of the bar also have raised thousands of dollars to help out. 

The bar has always been a "neighborhood ...  friendly ... 'Cheers'-type place," and that's a tradition the crew wants to continue in the new location, they said.

"No drama, no fights," Bloemke said. "We treated people like gold, and it showed."

But some neighbors questioned whether the new location can avoid trouble.

For one, the new spot is in a rowdier area than the old one, they said. Places with incidental liquor licenses are supposed to rely on food sales, not liquor, and neighbors pointed to Roadhouse's Twitter feed, which mostly blasts drink specials.

Plus, the owners also are applying for a patio license and a public place of entertainment license to host karaoke and DJs. Residents said sound containment from bars on Clark Street near Cornelia Avenue historically has been poor.

"You've got 2-for-1's and booze things in the past history that show you're a 'booze house,' for lack of a better word," said Kevin McIntyre, Hawthorne Neighbors' president. "You haven't proven that you'll change your ways."

Roadhouse owners countered that food sales went from 5 percent to 30 percent before it closed, and  they want to get that number even higher. About 75 percent of the old staff is returning, and the average age of the previous clientele was over 30.

They also said they are willing to soundproof well.

"We're just regular guys," Bloemke said. "Our bar burned down. We're rising from the ashes, making it happen. We want to do it the right way."

Hawthorne Neighbors' vote acts as an advisory from the community to Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who makes the final recommendation. 

Tunney suggested an incremental approach, like approving an incidental liquor license but forgoing the patio and entertainment license until Roadhouse had proven to be a good neighbor. 

Nine neighbors agreed, six disagreed and two abstained in a vote. 

"I honestly think they need to prove they're not a place for shots," Tunney said. "The jury is still out."