Hotel Lincoln
Hotel Lincoln's popular rooftop bar would be expanded under a current proposal. Credit: Hotel Lincoln/Instagram

OLD TOWN — Leaders of a popular Old Town hotel explained their plan to expand its rooftop bar at a meeting Tuesday that turned contentious as neighbors said it will increase noise and attract rowdy patrons.

Hotel Lincoln, 1816 N. Clark St., is applying for a special-use permit to begin construction on two upper rooftop patios that would expand the hotel’s existing rooftop bar, general manager Dan White said.

The 1,700-square-foot addition would expand the bar’s capacity from about 120 people to 180 people and overlook Lincoln Avenue, Wells Street and Clark Street, White said. 

There isn’t an official timeline for construction, but the hotel’s managers hope the lounge will be open by next summer, attorney Andrew Scott said. The lounge’s would be open 5 p.m.-1 a.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 

With the expansion, White plans to transform the rooftop from a nightclub into a quieter lounge, marketing it as a place “where you can talk and have a drink” while enjoying views of the city, he told the about 25 neighbors who attended Tuesday’s meeting.

But neighbors said they’re worried about noise and light from the expanded bar flowing into the neighborhood and suggested the hotel hire sound professionals to limit excess noise. 

Representatives from Hotel Lincoln addressed residents’ concerns about the hotel management’s plans to expand the rooftop bar. Credit: Kayleigh Padar/Block Club Chicago

There will be soundproof glass panes installed along the edges of the rooftop to reduce any noise that could carry over into the neighborhood, and hotel management has repositioned speakers to further limit excess sound, White said. 

White said he was open to hiring professionals to ensure the noise from the lounge won’t carry, and he plans to visit nearby homes to get a sense of how much noise the bar makes.

Neighbors also said they are concerned about rowdy patrons leaving the bar and causing a ruckus on residential streets late at night, saying they’ve seen other nightlife in the area “destroy people’s lives.” 

“Noise and crime is really what I’m concerned about,” said a person who’s lived across the street from the hotel for 15 years. “Our neighborhood used to be really safe, but now we’re getting a lot of people we’ve never seen before. I don’t know what sort of crowd you’ll attract being open so late at night.” 

Some neighbor suggested the hotel hire additional security to manage the crowds leaving the lounge so police resources aren’t strained. 

Residents will be able to call hotel security to report any noise complaints or issues with patrons, White said. 

Others at the meeting asked White if he would be willing to collaborate with them on a written community agreement that would define noise and capacity limits for the space, among other things. 

“We want to see your rental contracts. We want it all agreed upon in writing so that we don’t have to call you about it,” a neighbor said. “We just want to live our lives, do our business. But this expansion comes with a price, a cost to the people who actually own property here versus the people who get to go up there, have a few drinks.”

White said he wants to address people’s concerns, but he didn’t commit to the idea because he wants to learn more about the legal process surrounding the agreements. 

“I don’t think adding these rooftops will make the situation so much worse than what we have now,” White said. “We are what we are now, and these two additions aren’t going to turn things into chaos. We want to control what we are now, and we want to develop these two really cool rooftop areas into a place where people can enjoy what I believe is one of the most amazing views of the city.”

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