WICKER PARK — A "dive bar within a dive bar" pop-up devised by street artist Don't Fret is taking over Gold Star Bar on April 1, it was announced Tuesday, just a day after organizers behind the venture issued a fake news alert about a sports bar replacement for the beloved watering hole.
The Light Times Club — offering "a nod to the past and an ode to what’s left of the present" — will kick off with an opening party at 6 p.m. on April 1 at Gold Star, 1755 W. Division St. and end on April 4, organizers said.
Billed as a “conceptual watering hole” devised by Chicago artist Don't Fret, the art show turned bar will feature interior and exterior installations of the artist’s signature characters, portraits, critiques and witticisms.
Don't Fret is best known for his wheat paste characters and musings that he places on streets, including several in Wicker Park. The works include a memorable wheat paste a few years back that advertised "Wicker Park, now with more brunch options" and a new installment near Schiller and Damen avenues that tells passersby to respect their elders.
New work by Don't Fret spotted across from Wicker Park, March 2016. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
Special Pipeworks Brewing Co. beers will be available at The Light Times Club along with guest drafts. A Light Times "cocktail program" made by Ryan Holwerda (Cindys), and Pat Grosso (Berkshire Room) will also be featured throughout the four days of service. Read the full details here; follow The Light Times Club on Instagram for updates.
The earlier announcement pitched a "chef-driven nacho buffet" and 40 flat-screen TVs sports bar. A spokeswoman for The Light Times Club said on Tuesday that "no nachos or vegan nachos will be served."
Maryann Reid, Gold Star's owner said the idea of an LTC-type sports bar replacing Gold Star is "a worst-case scenario for East Ukrainian Village... 50 kinds of nachos and large-screen televisions."
Reid said she has no plans to sell her bar. "Every bar owner eventually dies or sells. I've been here over 25 years. I'm here because I'm still having fun. We just want people to come [to the LTC] and have fun," she said.
Part of that fun, Reid says, is supporting local artists. The idea for The LTC art show was proposed to Reid by Gold Star bartender David Cartwright.
The LTC's hoax news release said that the domestic craft beer bar would offer "the ultimate in luxury sports bar entertainment for a neighborhood flourishing with luxury apartments!"
Gold Star traces its roots to the early 1930s, long before the neighborhood was packed with apartments and condos, boutiques and sports bars touting flat-screen televisions.
The neon sign above Gold Star Bar in West Town still announces "Furnished Rooms," for rent by the hour during the building's seedy hotel days, Reid said.
Reid, who turns 77 in April, has amassed a lot of history on her cozy joint: A Polish woman named Vlasta Vucovic opened it in 1933 or 1934. She kept a baseball bat behind the bar. One of Al Capone's brothers drank here. The wallpaper had horses on it. The gold star embedded in cement in front of the bar was there when Reid bought it from Vucovic in 1990.
Sharing a photo of Vucovic, Reid said that her predecessor did not look anything like she did in the photo when the bar changed hands in 1990.
"She was an old woman, headed to assisted living," Reid recalled of Vucovic.
Gold Star regulars were dealt a loss in 2012 when Reid's daughter, Susan Stursberg, the ever-present face behind the bar, died of pancreatic cancer at 45.
Reid said her daughter's death impacted sales and a decline in crowds.
"She knew everyone and had a lot of friends who brought their friends in. Many people also got married and moved away. We are not getting as much business as is needed. People should vote with their feet, and if they want us to stay open, they should get their asses in here," she said.
Maryann Reid, longtime owner of Gold Star Bar in her office. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
A 2013 art show at Gold Star featuring work by Kevin Fair. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
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