WEST TOWN — When Cleo’s Bar and Grill manager Kevin Grish walked into work about 11 a.m. Monday, he expected another normal day at the beloved West Town dive.
But about 30 seconds later, a driver rear-ended the restaurant’s front windows, smashing glass and mowing down tables and chairs.
No one was injured in the crash. The bar, 1935 W. Chicago Ave., was able to reopen 24 hours later.
The driver was an elderly man who was “very shaken up” after he accidentally hit the gas pedal as opposed to the brakes while trying to parallel park on Chicago Avenue, Grish said. Grish said he was grateful no one was injured.
The crash took place shortly before the bar would have opened at noon, and the tables that got run over are the two most popular in the restaurant, Grish said. Cleo’s video footage also showed a pedestrian walk past the bar seconds before the crash, Grish said.
“I was more worried about [the driver’s] safety than the bar,” he said. “It’s just a building. It can be fixed.”
After contacting their insurance company and the city’s inspector, Grish said firefighters came by to help clean most of the debris.
Cleo’s staff finish cleaning and repairing the front entrance of the restaurant Monday afternoon.
Temporary wooden boards will be in place over the bar’s front windows for about two months, Grish said.
The new “face of Cleo’s” may look a little different than before, he said.
“Whatever it will be, will be, but it will be familiar,” he said. “That’s what we like about Cleo’s. Everything’s always familiar. Not a lot changes. It gets better.”
Famous for its backyard beer garden, bocce court leagues and for playing international soccer games, Cleo’s opened in 1994 in West Town.
Owner Scott Floersheimer took over the bar in 2010. During the pandemic, Cleo’s has been a regular contributor to West Town Feeds, a nonprofit started by TaKorea Cocina owner Robert Magiet to deliver food and donate meals to those in need.
Neighbors can help Cleo’s by continuing to show up for a meal or drink, Grish said.
“Wear masks, help us out with all the guidelines for COVID,” he said.
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