LINCOLN PARK — Live music bar aliveOne is celebrating 25 years in Lincoln Park with a month-long bash of free shows and a fundraiser for Ukraine.
The anniversary celebration will culminate with a private, invite-only party May 6 featuring a performance by Hartliss Bastids — a group featuring members of Umphrey’s McGee and Jen Hartswick from the Trey Anastasio band.
Three pairs of tickets to the 25th anniversary party are being raffled off Thursdays in April at aliveOne, 2683 N. Halsted St., during its Resident Band Night. The bar’s resident band, Bonzo Squad, starts 10 p.m. Thursdays, and winners are announced 11 p.m.-midnight.
All proceeds from the Resident Band Nights and the May 6 anniversary party will go toward United Help Ukraine, an organization providing medical aid and humanitarian relief to Ukrainians. The bar has already raised more than $4,500 for the organization since March.
“It’s humbling to be celebrating 25 years,” said managing partner David Halpern, who opened aliveOne in 1996.
Since then, Halpern has opened five other bars in Chicago under his company, Four Entertainment Group.
“But what’s cool is walking into aliveOne 25 years ago versus walking into aliveOne today — it’s got that same feel and vibe that’s fostered by such a great staff and unpretentious customer base,” Halpern said. “It feels like nothing’s changed, and it’s been a quarter-century.”
The bar is decorated with an extensive collection of music memorabilia, CDs and analog tapes of commercially released concert bootlegs. It’s also home to the city’s only jukebox that’s devoted entirely to live-music recordings, featuring 100 CDs to choose from.
In aliveOne’s front room, visitors will find a pool table and a more traditional bar setting with signature cocktails, rotating craft beers and a half-price happy hour offered 4-6 p.m. daily. The bar’s back room is where guests can see up-and-coming bands for free or join in on weekend dance parties.
“There’s a lot of synergy between the two rooms,” Halpern said. “We have bands, DJs, comedy and private parties [in the back room], and people kind of go back and forth between the two rooms enjoying what each one has to offer.”
In its 25 years, aliveOne has attracted prominent visitors, including Eddie Vedder, Warren Haynes, Jakob Dylan and Kings of Leon, Halpern said.
Performers of aliveOne’s Resident Band Night have also gone on to play with Buddy Guy, Neal Francis and other big names, Halpern said.
But his favorite memories of the bar are ones made by its everyday guests.
“The thing I value most is hearing people come back to us and say, ‘I met my wife here’ or ‘I got engaged here,'” Halpern said. “Just people making those kinds of memories is what I take the most pride in. It’s special that people can connect on our place on a level like that.”
That kind of atmosphere is what’s given aliveOne staying power over the last 25 years, Halpern said.
“It never gets old for me just being in my bar and seeing people have a great time,” Halpern said. “It sounds simple, but that’s always been the driving force for me.”
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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