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Logan Square Native Behind Harding Tavern Has Big Plans For Milwaukee Ave.

By Paul Biasco | July 14, 2016 6:43am
 Esam Hani opened an expanded Red Star Liquor last week and plans to open an adjacent lounge called The Walk-In next week.
Esam Hani opened an expanded Red Star Liquor last week and plans to open an adjacent lounge called The Walk-In next week.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

LOGAN SQUARE — Esam Hani is continuing to build out his own personal block of Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square with the expansion of a liquor store and bar and upcoming pizza restaurant.

Hani, who grew up in Logan Square, has been slowly growing his empire in the 2700 block of North Milwaukee Avenue for 25 years.

What started as a small corner liquor store has grown to two restaurants, a 2,500-square-foot liquor store, a soon-to-open bar and, by the end of the year, a pizzeria.

All of the businesses are on the same block.

"I live here a block away," Hani said. "I grew up here. How much more convenient can it be than that?"

The newly expanded Red Star Liquor at 2725 N. Milwaukee Ave. is roughly three times the size of the previous location directly next door.

Hani built out the larger store to accommodate an increasing taste in the neighborhood for variety in beer, wine and spirits.

As part of the project, he also built a tap room and lounge called The Walk-In that's connected to Red Star Liquor through a literal walk-in cooler door.

The Walk-In is set to open Tuesday.

The lounge will have seating for 50 inside and 20 on the patio.

There will be no TVs. Instead, there will be down-tempo DJs on the weekend.

"No Top 40, no Fireball shots," Hani said. "A little more on the craft beer side, but not as expensive as a Billy Sunday ... I don't want to be at that level of high-tech cocktail mixing. It will be more approachable and have its own little niche."

Hani's other restaurants include Cafe con Leche, De Noche Mexicana and The Harding Tavern.

Cafe Con Leche was his first restaurant when he opened at 2714 N. Milwaukee Ave. in 2001. He expanded the cafe into the adjacent storefront, adding seating in 2009.

Hani opened The Harding Tavern, a beer and burger bar at 2732 N. Milwaukee Ave. in 2014.

"There's still a couple of more spots available for other guys moving in, but I'm sure a couple of big hitters will move in because the neighborhood is prime for it," Hani said.

The next project, which the 54-year-old says is his last on the block for now, is a pizza restaurant and bar that will be located on the corner in the former Mr. G's Beef, 2715 N. Milwaukee Ave.

That restaurant was nearly ready to go, but Hani decided he wanted to expand into the former liquor store space to raise the capacity to about 100 seats.

"Ninety percent of the build-out is done," he said. 

The pizza restaurant and bar, which does not yet have a name, is expected to open in the mid-to-late fall.

"It's all on one block. I'm fortunate to be in a good neighborhood and a growing neighborhood, Hani said.

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