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'Neighborhood Bar' Proposed Next to Thai Lagoon on North Avenue

By Alisa Hauser | February 24, 2014 12:11pm
 A bar is proposed for a vacant building at 2320-22 W. North Ave. in West Wicker Park.
Proposed Bar on North Avenue
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WICKER PARK — A neighborhood bar could be coming to a shuttered 1880s-era building next to a Thai restaurant on a less-traveled stretch of Wicker Park just east of Western Avenue.

At the Wicker Park Committee's meeting last week, David Szumny presented his plan to bring a neighborhood bar to a vacant building next to Thai Lagoon restaurant, 2322 W. North Ave.

Built in 1885, the two-story building 2320 W. North Ave. has been in Szumny's family since the 1950s. For several years, the building housed a manufacturer of corned beef.

Szumny moved to Wicker Park in 1989, a few years after the closure of the corned beef shop, which was owned by his grandfather and father.

If the bar plan gets the green light, it would serve beer and liquor as well as Thai and American food prepared at Thai Lagoon.

A passageway would connect the restaurant to Szumny's bar, so patrons of both establishments could move about freely, and the restaurant, which is BYOB, could serve drinks from the bar.

The plan also would involve adding a one-story addition to the back of the building and creating an outdoor back patio that would be shared by Thai Lagoon and the bar.

Ed Tamminga, chairman of the neighborhood group's preservation and development committee, said there is "not much opposition" to Szumny's plan because the special-use license would add to the existing restaurant and would not require a zoning change. A rezoning would be required  to open a bar with no food.

Currently, there's a moratorium on the sale of packaged goods and taverns on North Avenue between Campbell and Leavitt streets, according to a Chicago Liquor Commission map.

There is one bar/restaurant in the immediate vicinity: Handlebar at 2311 W. North Ave, across North from Thai Lagoon.

Szumny, who lives above the restaurant, said the bar would stay open until 2 a.m. on weekends.

Szumny said he would be courting customers in their late 20s, 30s and 40s and not trying to attract the bar-goers who frequent the Milwaukee Avenue area around Damen, who "will go to Estelle, Nick's and all those places."

"At this point it is preliminary, I am looking for feedback from the community," Szumny said.

After the meeting, Szumny, who works for wholesale food company, said he has been thinking about the bar concept "for a while."

"I got this building that's empty, either knock it down or sell it, or do something with it," he said.

Szumny said the inspiration for the bar and its name comes from a bar he went to while in Germany when he was serving in the military in the early 1970s.

Szumny declined to share the name of the bar but said it would have "a fun, neighborhood bar atmosphere" that would be a "refined, nicely designed" place where "people will feel comfortable hanging out."

Szumny added he is hoping the bar will revitalize the area and attract neighborhood people living within two or three blocks.

"I don't need people to drive from the suburbs and pee on the sidewalk. A goal is to be a really good neighborhood bar," Szumny said.

Tamminga and the eight other members of the preservation and development committee said they support granting a special-use permit to build a bar on the condition that the bar would offer food from the neighboring restaurant and that the plan had the support of Ald. Joe Moreno (1st).

Though now in the 1st Ward, Thai Lagoon and the proposed bar would be in the 32nd Ward.  

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) could not immediately be reached for comment.

On Monday, Moreno referred all questions about Szumny's plan to Waguespack.