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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Wicker Park Neighbors Help Indoor Mini Golf Bar Clear Major City Hurdle

College friends working in finance quit their day jobs to open The Big Mini — and they'll serve as the bar's primary bartenders.

The former Ark at 1302 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Alisa Hauser/Block Club Chicago
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WICKER PARK — An indoor nine-hole miniature golf course and bar is one swing closer to opening in Wicker Park.

Located at 1302 N. Milwaukee Ave, The Big Mini needs a zoning change in order to receive a building permit. And to receive a zoning change, they needed help from neighbors.

The Wicker Park Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to support a temporary zoning change for the property so that the The Big Mini can receive its building permit.

The zoning change will be reversed once the business opens, Wicker Park Committee board member Ed Tamminga said.

The Big Mini owners Austin DeLonge and Nick Jenkins have already successfully received licenses to sell and serve liquor and provide entertainment.

But they said they were denied a building permit from the city’s Department of Buildings after city officials determined their type of business was not permissible based on the building’s zoning code.

Before The Big Mini, the storefront housed The Silver Room Pop-Up and The Ark thrift store. Jimmy Seidenberg owns the vintage building.

The Wicker Park Committee, an independent neighborhood group not affiliated with the city, routinely weighs in on neighborhood issues. Its decisions often factor into whether or not the city approves development, licensing and zoning requests. 

The group’s approval will be forwarded to Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), who can propose the zoning change at City Council.

The Department of Building’s hang-up was unexpected, DeLonge said.

“That was tough to hear,” he said. “It’s our money, it’s our time. We’re not backed by a corporation, we’re not a chain, we’re not lawyers.”

At the request of the Wicker Park Committee, the duo attempted to enter into a legally binding agreement regarding the zoning change. The committee asked that they do so with a $10,000 escrow.

But after asking more than a dozen escrow agents in Chicago to guarantee their business, each agent said no. They didn’t want the responsibility, Jenkins said, and there isn’t a real estate transaction tied to the ask.

“Everyone basically laughed in our faces,” DeLonge said.

RELATED: Indoor Mini Golf Course Coming To Wicker Park In Old Silver Room Pop-Up Storefront

Wicker Park Committee member Mary Tamminga, who works for an escrow company, said she believed DeLonge and Jenkins did their due diligence in asking for help. No escrow agent would have approved such a minor agreement, she said.

“It’s a pain in the ass,” she said.

Mini golf, or “putt putt,” is a game based on tapping golf balls down fuzzy green carpets with putters, aiming for holes often obstructed by spinning windmills and other whimsical obstacles. 

DeLonge and Jenkins both played mini golf as children on the East Coast; DeLonge in rural Vermont and Jenkins near Boston. 

The duo met while in college at the University of Vermont. About seven years ago, Jenkins moved to Chicago to pursue a job in business. DeLonge, whose career was also in finance, followed five years later. 

The friends quit their day jobs to pursue The Big Mini, which Jenkins described last year as a “labor of love.” 

Credit: The Big Mini / Provided
The Big Mini, 1302 N. Milwaukee Ave., will have a bar and a nine-hole mini golf course.

Pieces of the nine-hole course were being designed and constructed inside Jenkins’ garage. 

Their fathers, who are carpenters, are helping build the course.

The business won’t have a kitchen, but they hope to partner with neighboring restaurants to provide food, they said on Wednesday.

Patrons under 21 will be allowed to play mini golf if accompanied by adults older than 21.

Hours of operation will be 5 p.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-midnight Sunday.

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