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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Happy Village Would Become Upscale Tavern And Restaurant Under New Plan

Former Honey's chef Charles Welch and creative director Andrew Miller would be among the new operators.

Happy Village celebrated its 50th year in business in 2014.
Alisa Hauser/ Block Club Chicago
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EAST VILLAGE — A plan to transform the popular Happy Village corner bar into a neighborhood tap and restaurant is in the works.

According to a proposal by Out To Lunch Hospitality, Happy Village would keep its name and its unpretentious vibe but the bar would be transformed into a 50-seat “upscale” neighborhood tavern and restaurant focused on Midwestern fare. The hospitality group recently presented plans to the East Village Association’s board.

Credit: Spencer Jones / Out To Lunch Hospitality
A drawing of Happy Village and adjacent buildings by Spencer Jones.

A liquor moratorium would need to be lifted to allow for Happy Village owner Cheryln Pilch to transfer the tavern license to prospective new owners Andrew Miller and Addison Thom, who want to buy the building and bar.

Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd)’s chief of staff Christian Ficara that the alderman is waiting to hear from the community before he decides whether or not to support the plan. The license freeze now prevents any new operator from taking over an existing bar.

“The alderman will solicit feedback from the community and East Village Association prior to issuing any support for the plan,” Ficara said.

Known for its serene back patio and indoor rec room, Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott Ave., was founded by Pilch’s parents in 1964 and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014.

Credit: Alisa Hauser / Block Club Chicago
The serene and heavily landscaped back patio at Happy Village features a koi pond.

A previous plan to sell Happy Village to the owners of Lucky’s Sandwiches in 2016 fell through.

Pilch did not return a request for comment. 

According to the East Village Association, which published details of the plan on Tuesday, the new Happy Village plan is scheduled to be discussed and voted on at the group’s next meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the bar, 1059 N. Wolcott Ave. The group has held its meetings at Happy Village for years.

Led by chef Charles Welch, creative director Andrew Miller and partner Hector Gonzalez, Out to Lunch Hospitality has reportedly been shopping around for a new spot in which to open a permanent restaurant. Welch and Miller were among the partners that closed Honey’s on Lake Street in the West Loop earlier this year. 

If everything goes as planned, the group hopes to invest $3 million into the Happy Village overhaul, Dimitrios G. Christopoulos, an attorney for the buyers, told members of the East Village board on July 16.

Christopoulos was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

The proposed renovations would include restoring a kitchen (Happy Village does not serve any food) and reducing the size of the back patio by adding a glass solarium type of structure.

According to the proposal, Happy Village’s menu, from chef Welch, would feature burgers, salads, chops, pasta and appetizers. Prices would range from bar bites for $3, to appetizers for $8-13, and entrees for $14-27.

The drinks menu will consist of  “a small, highly curated wine list, craft beers, and progressive drinks” and the focus will be whiskey, with a good selection of other spirits as well. The group aims to make Happy Village a “home away from home” for locals and wanderers alike.

Damian Wiseman prepares to serve to friend Dan Schiffman in Happy Village’s rec room.

Damian Wiseman, a Wicker Park resident, was playing ping pong in Happy Village’s rec room on Tuesday afternoon and said he would be “heartbroken” if Happy Village closed and its replacement did not have a ping pong table.

“Other bars have ping pong tables but they are really congested and if you miss a ball it goes into a crowd of people, this place is actually set up for ping pong and it’s the only place you can go to for beer and ping pong at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday. I love it. I take everyone who visits me from out of town here,” Wiseman said.

Happy Village’s history as a saloon dates to the mid 1890s and at one point the spot was a grocery store.

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