PORTAGE PARK — Neighbors got a peek Monday night at the rapidly unfolding plans for Fischman's Public House, a sprawling restaurant and high-end liquor store set to open in the Six Corners Shopping District early next year.
Less than six months after owners Shanna and Gus Karamaniolas uprooted Fischman's Liquors from its decades-old home in Jefferson Park, the couple is readying a new chapter as a pub & grub in the same building as Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave.
"It's going to be a lot cleaner and more polished than what we had before," Shanna Karamaniolas said. "But it will still have the same heart and soul that the community has gotten to know so well."
The owners laid out their plans at a public meeting called Monday by Ald. John Arena (45th), who will push a zoning change allowing for the owners to operate a liquor store alongside the restaurant.
The new tenants are already busy gutting the storefront, they said. They're knocking down walls and combining four ground-floor offices, which had all sat vacant for at least four years.
In their place, workers are making room for "just under 100" diners inside windowed walls stretching around the corner of Cuyler Avenue. About a quarter of the total space, which the owners peg around 4,000 square feet, will be dedicated to an "upscale specialty store" stocked with local beer, scotch and bourbon, Gus Karamaniolas said.
"We have a niche market and a customer base that we know pretty well, so our supply will mostly be based on demand and request," he said. "It won't just be windows of Miller Lite."
In their eight years at the helm of Fischman's Liquors in Jefferson Park, the couple turned the half-bar half-liquor store into a pulsing community hub and an emporium for craft beer.
But the Public House be their first venture into full-time food service. Shanna Karamaniolas described their planned menu as "Americanized tapas" with a heavy emphasis on sharable platters.
"It's not going to be be big portions of food. So you're not going to find a big burger, but there will be sliders," she said. "We want to have traditional bar food, but in a way that you can share it with people."
The space will have a roughly even breakdown between bar and restaurant, with some outdoor seating available during warmer months on Cuyler, Karamaniolas said.
City officials have even offered to close down the side street for special events, like the annual "Kegs for Kidneys" beer festival, Karamaniolas said. In its five years running, the event has raised more than $10,000 for the National Kidney Foundation.
Arena predicts that any customers spilling out into the street will likely cascade out to the surrounding area.
"The sooner we can get activity going out on that street, the sooner we can get more foot traffic going to other businesses," Arena said. "And that's huge. Just having one business open gets the next one open, and that's the best advertising we can do."
About 20 people showed up to hear the presentation, including Michelle Foik, who's preparing to open Eris Brewery and Cider House at 4240 W. Irving Park Road.
"It's going to be exciting, and the old regulars are super excited to come back," Foik said. "It's a family-run restaurant, an independent place that people are going to love to go to."
The owners expect to open their liquor store in March, and they're aiming to start serving food by the end of June, they said.
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