LINCOLN PARK — Famous hot dog stand the Wieners Circle is looking to add a limited bar menu and new outdoor patio when the Lincoln Park institution reopens late this summer.
Representatives for the Wieners Circle, a Chicago-style hot dog stand at 2622 N. Clark St. that’s been closed since January for remodeling, presented their plans to upgrade the storefront into “the Wieners Circle 2.0” during a community meeting on Monday.
The Wieners Circle is requesting a liquor license and an outdoor patio license from the city so it can begin serving alcohol and transform the storefront’s empty back lot into a second patio. But neighbors expressed concerns about noise, especially during late-night hours, and whether the Wieners Circle’s expansion was even necessary at all.
Under current plans, the front portion of the Wieners Circle will remain relatively the same. People can still walk up to order their Chicago-style dogs with a side of insults and enjoy their meals at the picnic tables out front.
“Part of our renovation is we wanted to leave the character of the Wieners Circle and its original feel up front along Clark Street,” said Mark Michonsky, an architect hired for the stand’s remodel.
But the back of the building will be a different experience, the restaurant’s owners said.
“The front will be the same with the roast comedy, and it will look effectively the same, but our exception is that won’t occur in the back patio,” said Ari Levy, who took over Wieners Circle ownership in 2015 with Matthew Brewer and Timothy Wan.
The storefront’s construction will add about another 800 square feet to the Wieners Circle’s building, which will allow for a larger kitchen space and additional indoor dining at the back of the restaurant.
Behind the Wieners Circle will be an 800-square-foot covered patio, and another 600 square feet of additional outdoor seating, Michonsky said. Landscaping and an eight-foot tall fence will keep people enclosed within the restaurant’s back lot, which borders a series of townhomes and apartment buildings.
Neighbors who live near the restaurant expressed concerns that the introduction of alcohol, along with the restaurant’s patio, would create too much noise for the community.
“How do you plan to change the late-night rowdy mentality that the Wieners Circle is known for?” one neighbor asked of the planned expansion.
Levy assured concerned neighbors they were committed to “changing the narrative of the brand” and making sure the new patio wouldn’t be too loud or disruptive for neighbors.
“We’re going to make various videos and have a corresponding commercial to show what the Wieners Circle 2.0 is, and the goal is to retrain the patrons that the back [of the restaurant] is not the same as the front.”
The restaurant will also hire “community monitors,” which will act as security personnel who patrol the two patios, picking up garbage and enforcing any noise restrictions is customers get too loud, according to Brian Haines, operations manager for the Wieners Circle.
“Their sole job is to make sure we don’t have people loitering in the front, noise and just watching the waste around the building,” Haines said.
Lema Khorshid, an attorney representing the Wieners Circle, stressed that the bar owners’ “concept is not to operate a bar.”
“Food will be the primary activity, and the bar — any sort of alcoholic beverages — are the secondary activity,” Khorshid said. “Even the liquor offerings aren’t what a normal bar would have.”
The bar’s menu would include a limited selection of draft, canned and bottled beers, along with wines and an alcoholic slushy machine, Haines said. The Wieners Circle will not have mixed drinks or cocktails.
Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), who moderated the meeting, said her office would talk with the Wieners Circle about the community’s concerns.
“We will in turn report back to you about whether or not we’ll support any kind of liquor license here and if so, under what circumstances,” she said.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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