LOGAN SQUARE — Ed Mroz has spent the last few years fighting off rumors that his bar — one of the neighborhood’s last-remaining dives — was on the verge of closing.
Mroz is done fighting. He’s ready to make the announcement: The Mutiny’s days are numbered.
After nearly 30 years of business, the beloved dive bar and rock club at 2428 N. Western Ave. will soon shutter “unless something miraculous happens,” Mroz told Block Club.
Mroz said he simply can’t afford to pay to keep the place running and now he’s in a position where his stack of unpaid bills has become unmanageable. That, combined with personal hardships, including his years-long battle with prostate cancer, have made things extraordinarily difficult lately.
“Some people survive and thrive, which I did for many years. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old, but I lost my ability to keep fighting,” said Mroz, 68.
The Mutiny has been temporarily closed since mid-October. At the time, state regulators ordered Mroz to renew his state license or risk getting shut down — on Mroz’s birthday, no less.
“I said, ‘Today’s my birthday. Come by Monday.’ He said, ‘No, we can’t do that.’ When I hung up on the phone, I said, ‘You know what — I’ve had four days off this year. I haven’t had a vacation for two years,'” he said.
It was a predicament for Mroz because in order to renew the license he would’ve had to pay what he owed in back taxes, which he couldn’t afford to do. Mroz said he could’ve asked for help, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it.
“I could’ve raised the money, people offered to donate, but I’d be in the same situation four to six months from now,” he said.
Mroz didn’t end up getting a license and he has no plans to get one anytime soon. Instead, he’s been emotionally preparing to shutter a bar at the center of his life since 1990 for good.
“I feel horrible, I feel horrible that this has happened. It’s not the way I wanted things to end. But things happen. Life’s tough,” he said.
When The Mutiny closes, it’ll be remembered as equal parts rock club and dive bar. Since the late 1990s, the bar has been a haven for rock bands, many of them just starting out.
“The door was always open,” Mroz said.
“Many [bands] got their start. My goal was hopefully they make it big, but the reality was to turn their dreams into great memories. Or they’d come back and say, ‘Wow, remember the day we did that show here. Holy cow, man. The place was rockin’. Beer was all over the place. We broke ceiling tiles.'”
The latter actually happened. Sometime in the late 1990s, a bunch of “suburban kids,” as Mroz described them, were having so much fun during a show that they “tore the ceiling down.” Mroz got a kick out of it.
“They had a ball. They walked out here, laughing and screaming and hollering,” he said.
Mroz remembers one guy saying: “The Mutiny is like a rich kid’s basement.” And either the bar itself or Mroz “is like the cool father.”
The rule was, as Mroz described it: “As long as we don’t commit felonies, he didn’t see nothing.”
Mroz, a lifelong North Sider, said he’s especially grateful for the bar’s ability to foster “unbelievable camaraderie” over the years.
“So many people became friends, so many people got married, so many people had kids, so many people lived their dreams who would’ve never had another place to do it. The door was open to everybody,” he said.
“I enjoy being a part of it. I’m around all of these good kids.”
Mroz remembers one day last year when the lead singer of The Busy Kids visited him from where he now lives in Austin just to see how Mroz was doing and to thank him for his support over the years.
“It was amazing. When I leave, I’m not going to have that anymore,” he said.
When The Mutiny closes, the more than 100-year-old building may cease to exist. The way Mroz describes it is he was “forced into making some unfortunate decisions” over the last few years and he’s in the process of handing over the ownership rights to another entity.
With The Mutiny out of the picture, Mroz suspects the building will get torn down and something new will get built in its place.
Unlike his neighbor Earle Johnson, who elected to sell Quenchers and made money off the deal, Mroz is stuck dealing with his stack of unpaid bills.
He set up a time (6-10 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week) for bar patrons to come in and buy the artist-painted ceiling tiles — and all of the proceeds will go toward his unpaid federal tax bill.
Asked why business has dwindled over the years, Mroz pointed to the smoking ban and increased competition brought on by the sudden influx of new bars in the neighborhood.
But he’s also quick to acknowledge that he’s made mistakes over the years, financial and otherwise.
“The closing of The Mutiny is all my fault,” he said.
It’s even more disheartening, Mroz said, when you consider how many other similar establishments in Chicago are either going through challenges or have recently closed.
“The Hideout — they could [close]. The Double Door is gone. I’m gone. Now these are all bars that created — not jumped on the bandwagon — but are the guys that did things on their own,” Mroz said
“For many, many, many people it’s very sad because there’s nothing harder, at least for me, than to find a place to go have a beer. You’re taking all of these people from The Double Door, The Mutiny — that have all started this — and they just lost their place to have a beer. It’s a horrible thing.”
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