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Bar Crawl Led By History Students Explores Rogers Park's Spirited Past

By Linze Rice | May 17, 2016 5:31am
 A new walking tour and bar crawl will explore Rogers Park's colorful past when it comes to liquor laws and booze.
A new walking tour and bar crawl will explore Rogers Park's colorful past when it comes to liquor laws and booze.
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Provided/Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society

ROGERS PARK — Remember that shootout when a group of drunk gangsters held two police officers hostage after stealing a Cadillac and getting rowdy at the Northern Lights cabaret?

Probably not, that was in 1924 — and the building is now a Popeye's drive-through.

But a new walking tour and bar crawl led by history graduate and doctoral students at Loyola University (with help from the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society) is set to explore just that: the people, places and things about Rogers Park that have shaped the neighborhood and its liquor laws today.

"Rogers Park for the longest time was very dry, and the boundaries of Rogers Park were sort of this battleground between the tavern-keepers and the prohibitionists," said Matthew Amyx, a doctoral student in Loyola's history program. 

"For example, part of the reason today there's a separate West Ridge and Rogers Park is because of the disagreement over the liquor laws around the turn of the century."

When it comes to booze, Rogers Park and surrounding areas have had a complicated relationship, Amyx said.

Recent examples include a successful group effort among Ald. Joe Moore (49th), Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) and Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th) to get a 20-year liquor moratorium on Devon Avenue overturned for a brew pub, and a high-end bistro on the Rogers Park side of Devon Avenue, which must first overcome the area's "dry" zoning.

A Tribune article from November 1936, post-prohibition, details how the 49th and 50th wards, along with the rest of the city, grappled on voting for "wet" and "dry" districts, some of which still exist today.

The already soldout tour will start by grabbing a pint at Cuneen's Bar, a neighborhood favorite at 1424 W. Devon Ave., before venturing out to 11-12 stops with historical significance.

Spanning two hours, the tour takes those thirsty for local history around Devon Avenue, Sheridan Road, Pratt Boulevard and ends at Rogers Park Social, 6920 N. Glenwood Ave., where they'll be served a cocktail created for the tour.

They'll also stop at Red Line Tap, 7006 N. Glenwood Ave. and the New 400 Theater, 6746 N. Sheridan Road — a well-known secret in the neighborhood that slings good drinks at cheap prices in one of the country's longest-running theaters.

Other stops will like Uncommon Ground, The Heartland Cafe, The Glenwood, Oasis and more will help paint the complex and colorful history of Rogers Park's liquor laws.

Eventually, Amyx said he'd like to schedule more tours in the future, exploring other areas of Rogers Park, like Clark and Howard Streets.

"We hope that [participants] get a sense of some of the really cool places in Rogers Park," Amyx said.

"We want people to see the relationship between the legal history of drinking and sort of the cultural history of drinking, and ... how the laws and culture of drinking also affect the nature and culture of the neighborhood itself."

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