AVONDALE — Chicagoans hurried to Lost Lake this weekend to say goodbye to the popular bar, which closes Saturday night after seven years in business on the Logan Square/Avondale border.
Despite the cold and snow, dozens lined up outside Lost Lake Friday evening to get to-go tropical cocktails and merch, and drink daiquiris under the pink neon lights one last time. The line stretched down Diversey Avenue almost to Troy Street, with nearly each person walking away with a bag full of cocktails and goodies like glassware and bottles of rum hand-selected by the Lost Lake’s founder Paul McGee.
Lost Lake’s owners announced last week the bar, at 3154 W. Diversey Ave., would be closing for good because of the pandemic.
“We’ve been trying to ward off this moment since #flattenthecurve, but as it turns out, a super-spreader surge that wiped-out what would usually be our busiest time of year was the last little straw this camel could handle,” they wrote on Instagram.
For many, it’s a particularly painful loss. Lost Lake has been a favorite among locals and out-of-towners that consistently earned rave reviews from industry experts. In 2018, the bar was named one of the World’s 50 Best Bars and the Best American Cocktail Bar at the 12th Annual Spirit Awards.
Logan Square couple Patrick Clore and Caitie Eggl said the bar is tied to “lots of good memories” over the years. Eggl said they always brought her sister and brother-in-law to Lost Lake when they visited Chicago from New York.
“There’s been a lot of [closures] … but this one definitely hurts,” Eggl said.
Logan Square couple Michael Montes and Jan Chitphakdithai showed up right when Lost Lake’s to-go window opened 5 p.m. Friday to get their last drinks and some memorabilia.
Montes and Chitphakdithai said they wanted 2022 to be a no-buy year, meaning they weren’t planning to buy anything but consumables, but they made an exception for Lost Lake because the bar has meant a lot to them over the years.
The couple said they said frequented Lost Lake for its tasty cocktails and food and its people-first business model. The Lost Lake crew eliminated tipping during the pandemic to pay employees higher wages and buy them better health care plans.
“They’ve just always been really good with their customers,” Chitphakdithai said, adding that they were accommodating when she placed a custom birthday order.
Some patrons waiting in line on Friday said they were “shocked” the bar was closing so abruptly, given how successful it’s been over the last seven years. Lost Lake’s owners declined to be interviewed when asked for more information.
Since announcing the closure, Lost Lake has been inundated with calls and messages. In a post on Friday, the owners said their Instagram inbox was “totally overloaded” and their phone “was ringing off the hook” and encouraged those who wish to support bar to swing by their to-go window before last call on Saturday. Reservations are sold out, but the bar was accepting some walk-ins as of Friday.
Like bars across Chicago, Lost Lake struggled during the pandemic. The owners were forced to shut down in spring 2020, laying off all employees while urging patrons to tip workers online.
To keep the bar afloat, owner Shelby Allison pivoted to selling cocktail kits and to-go drinks and food, while also rolling out Lost Lake at Home, a subscription program for regulars. She paid half of the health insurance premiums for her staff despite up-and-down sales, juggling her desire to take care of her workers with everyone’s concerns about in-person service during the pandemic.
The bar reopened for the first time since the pandemic in September with an outdoor patio and new menus, hoping that could boost business after the long closure. The staff asked customers to provide proof of vaccination months before it was required by the city.
As the owners pack up the tropical decor and clear out of the Diversey Avenue space, some patrons said they’re hopeful a similar bar will replace it at some point.
“It’s a shame, but I’m excited to see what comes of the space next,” said Marty O’Connor, of Lakeview. “It’s a really great location, it’s a fun space, and I hope someone can actually instill … the love that is shown here tonight.”
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