A reader writes:
Please allow one more entry in the the Chicago pubs thread. A couple of decades ago, a pioneer by the name of Michelle Fire opened a small bar in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. She named it Big Chicks.
The area, at that time, was considered by many to be a "no man's land" (and it's still dicey in places). One of the bar's slogans was, "Men & Men & Women & Women." In other words, it was a bar that welcomed everyone, and it was quickly embraced by the local gay population. It is also decorated with an extremely interesting collection of art. This bar is exactly the type of unexpected treasure that brings together tipplers, partiers, and art aficionados. (My favorite is a spin on Picasso's Les Mademoiselles Des Avignon. Alas, none of the art is for sale.)
Big Chicks is perhaps best known for it's free Sunday barbecue (cheeseburgers, hot dogs, brats, salad, fruit and dessert) and $2 vodka lemonades, as well as its Monday $1 cheeseburger night. It's a community meeting place that offers an open mic night, dancing on Fridays and Saturdays, a local card club, bear events, and it also sponsors local sports teams. In other words, it is very, very popular.
The Sunday barbecue is so popular, in fact, that the synagogue across the back alley allows bar patrons to use its parking lot. It's not unusual to see Michelle in back directing traffic on summer Sunday afternoons, helping to keep the free parking safe and organized. But herein laid a problem.
Earlier in the decade, when the housing boom was on, a land developer became very aware of Big Chicks and started a campaign of mischief. Illinois has long had a state law prohibiting any bar to be operated within 100 feet of a place of worship. Forget the fact that the synagogue loves Michelle and the bar. And, forget the fact that the bar had been operating since the 1940s. Using the law, the developer attempted to close Big Chicks so that he could purchase the land, tear the structures down, and develop his own building.
The patrons banded together. The local alternative media publicized what was happening. The mainstream media got involved. It took some doing, but within months, the Illinois State House of Representatives passed a law whose sole purpose was to exempt Big Chicks from the earlier described statute. Then, the Illinois Senate passed the bill. Then, the Governor signed the bill. All to protect a tiny, dark bar in a forlorn Chicago neighborhood.
So much for disappearing pubs in Chicago.