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Violet Hour Mural Harkens Back To Non Gluten-Free Days Of Busy Bee Diner

By Alisa Hauser | June 7, 2016 12:26pm
 The Violet Hour's latest mural is a homage to Busy Bee, a Polish diner that closed in 1999.
The Violet Hour's latest mural is a homage to Busy Bee, a Polish diner that closed in 1999.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

WICKER PARK — The latest mural to camouflage the exterior wall of speakeasy-style cocktail lounge The Violet Hour harkens back to the days of the Busy Bee, a Polish diner that closed in 1998 after a 32-year run.

Located next to the CTA Damen Blue line L stop, where Blue Line Lounge & Grill is today, the Busy Bee was owned by Sophie Madej, who died in 2014.

The street artist behind the new 35-by-11-foot facade at 1520 N. Damen Ave., who requested anonymity, said he "wanted to do something for the neighborhood that reflected on the history of the neighborhood and what it was." 

The artist, who completed the mural over this past weekend, said the Busy Bee mural is "a reflection of a time and place very few of the people eating tacos across the street staring at that wall know anything about."

The mural appears to be an advertisement for Busy Bee, touting late night service and Polish dumplings with "no gluten-free options available!"

According to reports, Busy Bee was popular with cops, older Eastern Europeans on fixed budgets, and "the ruffians who once populated the neighborhood, as captured in the stories of novelist Nelson Algren."

Madej uplifted spirits while serving pierogis, sour cream spinach soup and potato pancakes between 1956 and 1998, according to Dave Hoekstra, a former Sun-Times columnist and critic

In a 2014 tribute to Madej, Hoeksta wrote on his blog that the diner was a favorite of Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, who liked Busy Bee's oxtail stew, and then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who visited the Busy Bee in 1992 and made a comment that sparked national controversy.

"I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life," Clinton said in the Busy Bee, Time reported.

The Violet Hour, which opened in 2007 and traces its name to a T.S. Eliot poem, camouflages its facade and entry door with artwork every six to eight weeks.

Pror to the current mural, in May, the facade featured a "Pancakes All Day" mural by Sal Bustamante and a mural honoring James Beard award nominee Cure, a New Orleans cocktail bar.

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