Skip to contents
Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Norwood Park

After Fire Temporarily Closes Jefferson Park’s Brigadoon, Bartenders Raising Money To Support Staff: ‘It’s Been Tough … Anything Helps’

The fire, believed to be started by an exterminator's smoke bomb, is another major blow to the bar and its employees, who already were struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic.

Jefferson Park pub Brigadoon, 5748 W. Lawerence Ave., as seen May 13, 2021.
Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

JEFFERSON PARK — The staff at neighborhood pub Brigadoon is asking for the community’s help after an accidental fire damaged the Northwest Side pub, forcing it to shut down for repairs.

Brigadoon, 5748 W. Lawrence Ave., closed last week after an exterminator placed a rat smoke bomb outside of the building and it rolled toward an exterior wall and caught on fire, said longtime bartender Ursula Kot, who witnessed the accident and called 911.

“It was out of this world, like out of a movie,” Kot said.

No one was hurt, but the damage was extensive, she said. The bar’s back wall was destroyed, as was the room with the pool table. The bar’s ceiling and floor will need to be replaced.

The apartment on top of the bar also suffered fire damage, but Kot said it wasn’t too severe.

To support Kot and the four other bartenders out of work, her colleague, Kari Burns, launched a “virtual tip jar” and fundraiser. So far, the fund has raised nearly $400 of its $5,000 goal. The money will be split evenly among all of the bartenders.

“We avoided asking for help during the COVID shutdown but would appreciate your support to help them during this time,” Burns wrote. “All of our bartenders rely on Brigadoon as their only source, or most of their income.”

Kot said the bar is her only job and it’s been tough to make ends meet. Due to the pandemic, the bar and its employees have barely stayed afloat, she said.

“Since we reopened in February, business has not been doing well,” she said. “It’s a tough business to be in right now.”

Brigadoon recently started to see more regular customers, run special drinks and host events, she said.

“It’s been tough,” she said of the fire last week. “Anything helps.”

Kot said regulars are “shaken up” to hear about the news and have been calling every day for an update on reopening.

“This is their second home, I think. We are one big family,” she said.

Kot, who lives close to the bar and has worked there for nine years, hopes more people can help the women and owner Tommy Gioia during this difficult time. She said Gioia, who has owned the bar for 30 years, is “devastated” but has kept a good sense of humor.

Kot said the bar staff is still waiting for the health department’s OK to open. But with all the repairs needed, a reopening date is yet to be determined — but the team is trying to stay positive, she siad.

The bar plans to host a yard sale in the adjacent lot with crafts by 20 local artists June 12-13 and staff hope to open in time for the event.

“We are hoping for the best,” Kot said.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Already subscribe? Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.