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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Innertown Pub Finally Opening Outdoor Beer Garden After Weeks Of Waiting

At the request of Ald. Brian Hopkins, neighborhood leaders met Saturday and voted not to oppose the bar's permit.

A temporary patio is ready to open at Innertown Pub, 1935 W. Thomas St. — but first the bar needs a permit.
Brandon Pool / Provided
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EAST UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — The wait for Innertown Pub’s backyard patio is finally over.

Innertown owner Denis Fogarty received notice Thursday afternoon he had been given permission to open a temporary patio after several weeks of trying.

The bar at 1935 W. Thomas St. will open at 5 p.m. Thursday.

“It’s great for us to finally be able to open up,” Fogarty said. “Thankfully the weather’s nice out now, hopefully we’ll get a good weekend. It’s been humbling, all the support we got from the customer base. It seemed like logic and righteousness was on our side.”

City officials initially rejected Innertown’s permit application but changed course this week after neighborhood leaders with the East Village Association voted not to oppose the permit and Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) subsequently gave the green light to the city’s liquor commission, Fogarty said.

Fogarty previously said the alderman and some neighborhood leaders were slowing down the approval process, prompting hundreds of neighbors to sign a petition pushing Hopkins to support the bar’s outdoor dining permit.

RELATED: For Struggling Innertown Pub, Temporary Beer Garden Would Be A ‘Lifeline’ — But City Won’t Issue Permit, Owner Says

Fogarty will reopen with longtime manager Brandon Pool and one other staff member. He said he plans to bring back as many furloughed workers as he can.

“It’s gonna feel good to get back to earning again, to see everybody’s faces when they come through,” Pool said. “I’m incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support. Everybody’s showing us so much love. That feels real good.”

Credit: Hannah Alani / Block Club Chicago
Innertown Pub opened at 1935 W. Thomas St. in 1983.

Neighborhood leaders took their vote on Saturday at the request of Hopkins, who shared Innertown’s application materials with the group late last week, EVA president John Gantner said.

Though EVA was asked to weigh in, the decision was ultimately that of the alderman, Gantner said.

He refuted the notion the neighborhood association as a whole had intentionally tried to stop Innertown from getting a permit — even though a few neighborhood leaders expressed concerns earlier in July.

“East Village Association has not done anything to try to shut this business down,” he said. “Especially with this COVID issue, we are not trying to shut down a business. The only thing we have done is make sure things are done legally.”

Hopkins said he hesitated on the permit due to Innertown’s previous failed efforts to establish a beer garden in addition to complaints from neighbors regarding noise.

“My responsibility as the alderman is to make sure the neighbors’ voices are heard,” he said. “COVID didn’t really change that. It did allow for these emergency rules to apply … but the pre-existing dispute between the neighbors and the neighborhood association and this bar had to be addressed.”

Given the proximity to neighbors, Fogarty said he plans to close the patio at 10 p.m. — even though city rules would allow him to stay open until 11 p.m.

Hopkins said he felt that was a reasonable compromise.

“The 10 p.m. restriction should help with concerns about noise,” he said. “Innertown Pub now realizes the importance of having positive relations with your neighbors.”

Outdoor dining has been a much-needed boon for many restaurants unable to serve customers inside for months. But businesses still waiting on permits to participate in outdoor service programs say the city needs to speed things up if it wants small businesses to survive.

RELATED: Outdoor Dining Has Helped Hundreds Of Chicago Restaurants, But Others Still Waiting On Permits: ‘Winter Will Be Here Soon Enough’

Not every business that applies for a permit automatically gets one. 

In Lakeview, Soraya Rendon waited all summer for city approval to serve customers outdoors at Chilam Balam. On Thursday, she finally got her permits. 

Innertown initially applied for the expanded outdoor dining permit June 16, Fogarty said. The Liquor Commission initially flagged the application because of the bar’s “unique” zoning, a staffer for Hopkins said last week.

Like many Chicago dive bars, Innertown Pub was grandfathered in to a zoning code that no longer allows bars to exist within dense residential areas. 

The Liquor Commission asked Hopkins to weigh in on the application. Hopkins deferred the issue to community leaders.

Innertown Pub received a permit on July 7, but it was revoked days later, Fogarty said. The bar has been in Fogarty’s family since 1983.

Credit: Hannah Alani / Block Club Chicago
Innertown Pub opened at 1935 W. Thomas St. in 1983.

After the neighborhood petition launched, Hopkins asked the EVA to weigh in. The Saturday vote was tight, Gantner said, as some immediate neighbors expressed safety concerns regarding a cracked wall at the rear of the bar.

Fogarty has agreed to have the wall inspected, Gantner said.

Per Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s new ruling, Innertown will partner with neighboring restaurant Picante Taqueria to provide food service. A QR code will be made available to guests.

Innertown’s patio will include six socially distanced picnic tables, a gravel floor and bamboo sound barriers that will be attached to fencing. It will back up to the residential alley between the bar and the neighboring homes. 

Hours of operation will be 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 3-10 p.m. Friday and noon-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.

Read all of Block Club’s coverage on outdoor dining here.

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