MORGAN PARK — An illuminated neon sign in the window of the bar at 10910 S. Western Ave. in Morgan Park served as an invitation Tuesday to step inside.
Owner Jack Kelly quietly opened his bar in the afternoon at the urging of an eager barkeep. Kelly's Tap officially replaced Mrs. O'Leary's Dubliner, which had been closed for about two years.
"It will just be your neighborhood bar — just someplace comfortable to come on in," said Kelly, a Beverly resident.
Kelly has yet to hang pictures on the wall. There are still televisions that need to be mounted too, and a few construction odds and ends need attention. He's planning a grand opening in the next 10 days or so.
But as long as he's in the bar getting ready, Kelly figured he might as well invite curious customers inside to share a beer. Mostly, he plans to be open in the late afternoon and early evenings ahead of the formal debut.
Kelly is a parishioner of Beverly's St. Barnabas Parish and was raised in suburban Evergreen Park. It's his first time owning a bar, but he gained valuable experience while working for Balmoral and Maywood Park racetracks.
Kelly served as the director of government relations for the defunct harness tracks. He also worked with off-track betting parlors. That's where he learned to spot viable business locations.
He identified such an opportunity at the former home of The Dubliner and signed a lease with the landlord who maintained the tavern's liquor license while it was closed. Kelly also said he also previously worked as an accountant in the food service industry.
If things go well, he'll consider adding a small kitchen. And he believes customers of the nearby Home Run Inn and Open Outcry Brewing Co. will stop in for a drink before or after visiting the nearby establishments.
John Brand owns the brewery at 10934 S. Western Ave. and checked in Tuesday to visit Kelly. He believes the new tavern will complement his business, bringing additional patrons to the block.
"I am excited," Brand said. "I think any sort of economic redevelopment by multiple businesses in close geographic locations to each other is great for everyone."
Unlike Open Outcry, Kelly expects most of his customers to drink domestic light beer. He also will have Guinness on tap and will likely keep a few craft beers on hand for those interested. But he's determined to keep it simple.
"I think people are still looking for a small, little neighborhood joint," Kelly said. "Just throwing the light on and having the door open yesterday, there were three or four people that said, 'We need a place like this.'"