AVONDALE — A tavern from the owners of The Owl, Estelle’s and Easy Bar is opening this month at the site of a longtime Polish dive bar on the Logan Square and Avondale border.
Central Park Bar has replaced Mr. ZJ’s at 2924 N. Central Park Ave. and the previously empty lot next door. The hospitality group behind the bar, Four Entertainment Group, aims to open in late October. Check Central Park Bar’s Instagram and website for the announcement.
With its 80-year-old wooden bar and wood paneling, the bar is designed to feel like a neighborhood spot that’s “been here forever,” owners said in a news release. The watering hole has a 3,500-square-foot outdoor patio with a full bar. Together, the two spaces make up one “casual, down-to-earth gathering spot for relaxing and unwinding,” the release said.
When it opens, Central Park Bar will serve cocktails, including some on draft, and beer made locally and around the world. Patrons can expect half-price happy hour, a staple for the hospitality group, 4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday. The plan is to eventually partner with food trucks, according to the release.
“We always strive to be that go-to bar by your home and Central Park Bar will be no different,” said David Halpern, Four Entertainment Group’s managing partner.
Central Park Bar has been in the works for three years.
Four Entertainment Group bought the property in 2019 and pitched neighbors on the project in March of that year, but their team hit a wall when the pandemic gripped the city. For months, the hospitality group “stood still” as the public health crisis raged on, not knowing if the bar and restaurant industry would recover, Halpern said.
“We had closed on the deal already, so it wasn’t like we could walk away,” he said.
About five months ago, when cases started dropping and vaccines became widely available, Halpern and his team began construction, comforted by the fact the bar has a large outdoor patio. Supply chain issues have caused massive delays, but Halpern said they’re still on track to open this month.
“We were piecemealing the project, but we haven’t stopped since we started,” he said.
Central Park Bar is the latest tavern for Four Entertainment Group, which owns and operates aliveOne, Easy Bar, Estelle’s, Remedy and The Owl, as well as other spots in Columbus, Cincinnati and Kentucky.
The building’s history and original architectural details are what drew Halpern and his team to the project. Halpern said he saw so much potential in the old-school bar despite the nicotine stains and other signs of wear, along with the bar’s tin ceiling, among other crumbling design features.
“That’s the charm you can’t buy. This is a classic Chicago tavern,” he said. “You can walk into a cookie-cutter space and slap in a beautiful bar … [but] we enjoy the process of restoring.”
The finished product blends old with new. On top of the restoration, Four Entertainment Group brought in several modern elements, including jungle-themed wallpaper and green barstools, to give the bar an updated feel.
The group built the patio from the ground up. What was once an empty lot is now an oasis with picnic tables under mulberry trees, an open-air bar with 55-inch TVs, a fire pit and a bumper pool table situated near the original Mr. ZJ’s sign.
Halpern said the goal was to put their own spin on the bar while paying tribute to its history. They named the tavern Central Park Bar for two reasons: It’s situated on Central Park Avenue, and the patio feels like “a park for adults,” Halpern said. The sign hanging out front is similar to Chicago Park District signage.
Over the last few months, neighbors have peered inside the construction zone, hoping to catch a glimpse of the bar before its debut. Halpern said he’s thrilled to finally welcome neighbors inside.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” he said. “It’s a statement for the industry, that there are openings, not closings, that we’re making it through and we’re creating jobs. That’s always been such an important part of it for me.”
Central Park Bar will be open 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday-Friday and 4 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturdays. The patio will close 11 p.m. weekdays and midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
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