LINCOLN SQUARE — The owner of Spyners Pub’s is using the state shutdown to give the dive bar a makeover.
Owner Maureen Sullivan paid off the building at 4623 N. Western Ave. before the pandemic. She’d wanted to do some work on the bar for some time and planned to schedule construction around the bar’s busiest hours.
But the stay at home order allowed her to do the planned renovations all at once.
“In April, I realized the shutdown would mean we’re going to stay closed a few months. I called the city to get my permits and have had crews gutting the entire place since,” Sullivan said.
The Michelob Light beer sign outside the bar is gone. Sullivan gave them to a friend who moved out to Savannah, Georgia. Sullivan got a 1940’s, Art Deco-style bar from Lincoln Park she plans to install to replace the front bar, and crews are overhauling the outside of the building to match that look.
The bar is also getting new windows and a new floor but Sullivan has made a point to preserve as much of the bar’s historic character as possible.
“We want to keep its Chicago charm. Our ceiling is original from 1882 and has a few bullet holes in it,” Sullivan said.
The bullets are still in the ceiling from a gunfight between Chicago Police Officer Philip J. Kelly and two armed robbers on May 3, 1939. Kelly was in plain clothes when two armed men walked into the bar and announced a robbery.
Kelly and his partner drew their guns on the attackers. Kelly and a customer were killed while Kelly’s partner was seriously wounded.
“A friend of mine is going to get me some more information on the officer who passed away and I’m thinking of installing a plaque or something to mark what happened,” Sullivan said.
While many other bars and restaurants have struggled, Sullivan is glad she was able to secure payroll protection for her employees and can continue paying them during the shutdown.
“We’re in a pretty good position, and really right now I want people to support other local places that are on the verge of closing or have all their bartenders and waitresses without jobs,” Sullivan said. “Thankfully we don’t need your help right now but places that do really need your help.”
Construction should be done by August. If she’s allowed to reopen then, Sullivan said she plans to request a permit for outside seating, too.
The bar may look different when it reopens but Sullivan wants to reassure regulars its atmosphere will remain the same.
“These renovations are about making the bar more accommodating by having more room and updated fixtures,” she said. “We’ll have a bigger selection of beers and cocktails, too, but they’ll still be at our really cheap dive bar prices. There will always be bucket specials as long as I’m alive.”
For more information on Spyners Pub visit its Facebook page.
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.