AVONDALE — A longstanding neighborhood bar is getting a makeover as its new owners prepare to celebrate their father’s legacy with a new name and renovated interior for the tavern.
Brothers Joel and Trevor Hill say they’re creating a “family business” at the old Wally’s Lounge storefront, 3017 W. Belmont Ave. The bar is open to customers as construction continues, but the Hills say a grand opening, ideally under the name Reed’s Local, is scheduled for mid-summer.
The name is an homage to their father, who died of a heart attack a little more than a year ago. The brothers said they sold a home that had been in their family since the '60s to invest in their new Avondale bar.
Joel Hill, a resident of Logan Square since 2001, said the idea behind the new Wally’s was to “have it be a neighborhood bar” in Avondale.
“We will be a respectful neighbor,” he said. “That’s why we put the 'Drink Local' sign up. It’s not the name of the bar. It’s more of a suggestion to the community.”
Joel Hill, a Chicago Teachers Union representative and musician, will be joined by his wife, brother and his brother’s wife in running the new bar. The family will trade shifts both behind the bar and in its management.
The old Wally’s Lounge was taken over by Wally Kozinski in 1978 and was known as “an absolutely bare-bones dive.”
“If you order a cocktail at Wally’s, don’t expect any ice: they don’t have any. You know what, you probably won’t order a cocktail in the first place, because they don’t have mixers, either. Or beer on tap,” according to the Reader’s Luca Cimarusti. “Your best [bet] … is to order a $3 bottle of Old Style and have a chat with the bar’s namesake, an elderly European charmer with an encyclopedic knowledge of dirty jokes and a bar stocked with vulgar, perverted gag toys.”
According to Joel Hill, Wally was “a unique individual" — so the deal the took a while to work out. Hill said Kozinski's sale of the lounge was a matter of timing for the longtime owner, who planned to retire with his wife, Irene, in Chicago and travel more.
And now that the paperwork is settled, the Hills said they're eager to have the new Wally’s bar fully up and running. The new digs will keep that classic dive esthetic (think Sportsman’s Club in Humboldt Park) but the addition of added space, new booths, classic arcade games and a widescreen television will raise the bar a bit.
"It feels good to be my own boss," Trevor Hill said as plans for renovation continued this week.
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