WICKER PARK — Crocodile, a Wicker Park bar evicted in January after months of unpaid rent and grifter-fueled shenanigans, will be replaced by a new sports bar/dance club hybrid from the team behind the Polish Triangle’s evilOlive.
Featuring about 50 seats, 17 flat-screen televisions and a game room with pool and foosball tables, Little Olive Lounge aims to open the first weekend of July, according to Marzena Falek, a spokeswoman for Little Olive Lounge owner Marcin Kawa.
“It won’t be anything like Crocodile,” Falek said. “It’s a place where neighborhood people can pass by and stop in, have a glass of wine, or coffee, and hangout. Not too fancy but easy going and comfortable,” Falek said.
Little Olive Lounge — or LOL for short, Falek points out — will serve beer (craft, imported and domestic), cocktails and wine, along with hearty tavern fare like pizza, hamburgers, chicken and pulled pork sandwiches.
On the lighter side there will be salads and grilled cheese for vegetarians. Homemade cake and coffee will be served beginning at 11 a.m. each day to attract neighbors who work from home and parents pushing strollers.
Little Olive Lounge’s prices or menu have not yet been finalized.
The lounge will offer six house cocktails, including a Little Olive Old Fashioned and Frosé, or frozen rosé with vodka.
The bar will be open 11 a.m. — 2 a.m. daily. The kitchen will close at 9 p.m. on weekends but stay open longer if there is a strong demand for food, Falek said. Later at night, Little Olive Lounge’s basement dance floor will open and the space will become more of a club, Falek said.
Members of the Wicker Park Committee’s preservation and development subcommittee say they welcome the new business as long as Little Olive Lounge maintains kitchen hours and books its own shows rather than hiring outside music promoters, according to Paul Dickman, the subcommittee’s chairman.
“With a reasonable plan of operation we have no problem with it,” Dickman said.
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) also said he supports the new concept. Moreno approved a commercial zoning for the Crocodile building last year despite objections from the community group Wicker Park Committee.
Crocodile’s owner Radek Hawryszcuk had been asking for the zoning change since 2013. The commercial zoning allows for a tavern to operate on the premises. The previous zoning allowed for a restaurant that also served liquor to operate in the building. Moreno had championed the zoning change since it would more truthfully reflect Crocodile’s then-core business as a tavern.
Hawryszcuk is also a partner in Evil Olive but he does not actively operate the business, Falek said. Hawryszcuk will not be involved in Little Olive Lounge, which is solely owned by Kawa, who also owns Evil Olive at 1551 W. Division St. in Wicker Park.
After Crocodile was evicted in January, Falek said there was a lot of competition from other bar operators to secure the sought-after location just south of Wicker Park’s popular Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection.
The building’s owner, Mariusz “Mario” Szpyrka, confirmed that he heard from several interested applicants before selecting Kawa and the Little Olive Lounge concept.
“[Kawa] has been very responsible and professional and I am looking forward to working with a respectful tenant. He has answered every question and covered exactly what they will be doing and they are investing a lot of money into the space to make it look great. That’s good for everyone and good for Wicker Park,” Szpyrka said.
For a few years leading up to Crocodile’s eventual shuttering and eviction, the bar made headlines for its late night fights that spilled into the street, a basement dance floor fight and a man who claimed to be the bar’s new owner — but was later arrested for trespassing.
“I am happy for a new chapter. I am just glad the nightmare is over, at the end it wasn’t a fun ride,” Szpyrka said.
Renovations, estimated at $200,000, began in February. Interior designer Ewelina Dziedzic described the design as unique but also “matching the neighborhood” with a rustic and antique look. A gray bar features subtle hints of black and silver, and there will be new front windows that open to the street on warmer days so patrons can enjoy the breeze and people watching on Milwaukee. The bar will also have a small sidewalk patio.
Little Olive owners have applied for a Public Place of Amusement license, which will allow for music and DJs at the bar, as well as a tavern license. The licenses are currently being reviewed by the city.
A website and Facebook page for Little Olive Lounge is coming soon. Falek said those looking for server jobs can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.