MORGAN PARK — Fans of O'Brien's Pub have about six months to grab a drink at the bar before a major overhaul transforms the modest tavern into a craft brewery.
John Brand, 36, bought O'Brien's as well as the building that houses it on March 9. The home brewer plans to keep the bar at 10934 S. Western Ave. in Morgan Park open while he works on the overhaul.
Brand — an auditor by trade — has been brewing beer for himself for a decade. He moved into Morgan Park three years ago and soon began dreaming of opening a brewery within the established stretch of bars along Western Avenue on the Far Southwest Side.
"I've been watching all of this happen for the past five years and have been champing at the bit," Brand said Wednesday of the explosion in the craft beer scene.
When the plans are complete and permits are acquired, Brand will close O'Brien's, which has been among the stretch of bars known as "The Irish Mile" for roughly 10 years.
He'll likely expand the footprint into some of the adjacent storefronts, which he also acquired in the deal. Though he's not sure how large the brewery will be yet nor when the overhaul will get underway.
Meanwhile, Brand encouraged fans of the existing bar to visit ahead of the changeover. Brand said he's spent a lot of time recently sprucing up O'Brien's for the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade. He's also restocked the rail, added a Golden Tee machine and hung some fresh decor.
"The cash flow in this tavern will buy me some time," he said.
While things will largely stay the same this summer, Brand said he's begun interviewing architects to bring his brewery to life. He plans to change the name of the tavern when it reopens and hopefully add a few food options too.
"I want you to feel like you are walking into a brewery," said Brand, who grew up in suburban Frankfort.
He gave a nod to Neil Byers, owner of Horse Thief Hollow too. This brewpub at 10426 S. Western Ave. opened in 2013 and has quickly became a popular spot along Western Avenue for craft beer fans and families alike.
Brand said his place will be a bit different, feeling more like a brewery than a restaurant. Still, he believes having two homegrown beer vendors within a half mile will create a destination for beer lovers.
Byers agreed, saying Thursday afternoon that Brand has spoken with him about his plan and enjoys his full support. Byers added that he's even formed a group to recruit ambitious business owners to the Beverly area.
"We need people like John here," Byers said.
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