Robert Cervantes aims to open Apero's, a wine bar at 4160 N. Lincoln Ave. Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago

NORTH CENTER — After traveling the world, a North Center native has returned home to open a French-themed wine bar.  

Robert Cervantes and his family bought the building at 4160 N. Lincoln Ave. to open Apero’s, which will highlight Great Lakes wines, wines from other parts of the world and charcuterie from local butchers and Midwestern farms. The building formerly housed Square Biscuits and several BBQ restaurants.

The wine bar, which aims to open this summer, will also feature natural-wines produced without the use of additives, pesticides or herbicides and often fermented with native yeast.

“I really wanted a space to bring people together,” Cervantes said.

After growing up near Western and Berteau, Cervantes spent much of his adult life traveling across the world. His curiosity was sparked by foreign languages.

“I was always interested in foreign language when I was growing up. I’m Mexican and grew up speaking Spanish. I was always the translator for my mom,” Cervantes said. Later, he learned French, he said.

Cervantes attended McGill University in Montreal, Canada, later studied in Lyon, France, and then lived in Singapore, Hong Kong, India and Belgium working in the hospitality industry and teaching yoga.

“One thing that unified all of my travels was dinner. Gathering around and eating with wine,” Cervantes said. 

While teaching yoga in Belgium, Cervantes visited Tarzan, a natural wine bar, and Chez Jane, a neighboring wine shop, which rekindled his love of wine.

“In Europe people appreciate wine differently. They see wine as a compliment to life. It’s not something that is only for special occasions. It’s a compliment to your livelihood,” Cervantes said. “Wine is not pretentious. It’s something you drink with dinner.”

That philosophy is also why Cervantes decided to name his business Apero — the French word for the act of getting pre-dinner drinks with friends, he said. 

Since returning to Chicago he’s noticed people who grew up with conventional wines are less inclined to try natural-wines. That’s one of the reasons he wants Apero to have an educational component.

“In the world of Chicago that’s consumed with beer why not push the envelope a little bit,” Cervantes said. 

Cervantes is seeking a zoning change in order to get a tavern license to open the wine bar and a permit to open a sidewalk café, according to Ald. Matt Martin’s (47th) office. If approved by the city, the wine bar could open in June or July, officials said.

The ward’s zoning advisory council will review Cervantes’ application this month and decide if they’ll support it, said Martin’s director of development and infrastructure Josh Mark.

If approved, the wine bar would be open 5 p.m.-Midnight Tuesdays-Saturday.

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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park reporterrnrnalex@blockclubchi.orgnnLincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park Twitter @avhndz