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Punch Bowl Social to Pump $6M into Wicker Park Entertainment, Dining Mecca

By Alisa Hauser | January 21, 2015 9:57am
 Renderings for Punch Bowl Social, which hopes to open this year at 1348 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Punch Bowl Social in Wicker Park
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WICKER PARK — Punch Bowl Social, a Denver, Co.-based entertainment complex that has selected a former furniture mart in Wicker Park as its fifth nationwide location, could open before the end of the year, officials said Tuesday.

Robert Thompson, founder of hospitality company Seasoned Development, revealed his plans to bring a three-level, 27,000 square-foot entertainment and dining complex with eight bowling lanes, two private karaoke rooms, ping pong and foosball tables, skee-ball and a 24-hour diner, among other amenities.

If all goes as planned, Punch Bowl Social at 1348 N. Milwaukee Ave. would be open before the end of the year and create as many as 150 new jobs, Thompson said at a neighborhood group meeting in Wicker Park.

"It's a big space; it's going to be meaningful," Thompson said of the $6 million renovation to the vintage corner building, which will feature a design theme that is a mix of mountain lodge, industrial and modern elements.

Alisa Hauser says the neighborhood is excited for the opening:

Other Punch Bowl games on tap include shuffleboard, darts, board games and bags. 

The first floor would offer a 24-hour diner, two lanes of bowling, a bar and an indoor bike valet for cyclists, similar to a coat check but with a separate side entrance through he alley.

The second floor would offer four bowling lanes and a bar. The third floor will have two bowling lanes and a bar.

When asked if bowling would be open 24-hours, Thompson said they were not sure yet but it would be unlikely.

In addition to the general public, about one-sixth of Punch Bowl's business in other locations comes from private events, such as corporate outings and bar and bat mitzvahs, Thompson said.

Assuaging previous concerns over Punch Bowl Social's landlord initially requesting a special zoning that allows a tavern with a liquor focus rather than food, Thompson said they anticipate that 55 percent of sales will come from food and the remainder from liquor.

Thompson said liquor sales will stop at 2 a.m.  And, depending on crowds, some floors could be closed off during the week, such as a Monday night.

There will be no dedicated parking and people will be encourage to take public transit or bike to Punch Bowl Social.

Dina Petrakis, a member of the Wicker Park Committee's preservation and development subcommittee, told Thompson that she imagines the new venture could be busy even during the work week.

"Stan's Donuts opened here and ran out of of donuts on the first day," Petrakis said.

Citing the recent opening of a Punch Bowl Social in Detroit that drew larger than anticipated crowds, Thompson said, "In Detroit we went into a desert and opened a water fountain. Chicago has a lot going on."

Punch Bowl Social's menu offers burgers, chicken and waffles, bar snacks, breakfast and lunch, along with classic cocktails, craft beer, milkshakes, fresh juices and fizzes.

The weekend brunch menu, served until 3 p.m. includes several items that could be enjoyed by all ages, such as chocolate chip malted waffles topped with peanut butter mousse and monkey bread French toast.

A "Hipster Hash" offers a blend of poached eggs, mushrooms, kale, onions and goat cheese.

The Wicker Park menu will be similar to Punch Bowl Social's other spots, though local purveyors will be added to represent the Chicago market, Thompson said.

"We always use a local, organic ketchup and we’ll find a local, grass fed, hormone free beef, as an example," he said.

After the meeting, Petrakis said she believes Punch Bowl Social will be "a welcome addition" to the neighborhood, while Leah Root, president of the Wicker Park Committee, gave props to Thompson for meeting with the group, even though no zoning change would be required or voted on.

"[Thompson] flew in for that meeting. It is great he took the time to do it and he seems excited to embrace the community," Root said.

Jamie Clough, a Wicker Park resident, said that he supports Punch Bowl Social's entry into the area but has one concern.

"The 24-hour diner makes me a little nervous. It's going to be people that are still hanging out from the night before," Clough said.

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