NEWS

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May 23, 2003

Bar Louie opens doors

After months of delay, Bar Louie has finally opened its kitchen to the public, but its bar currently remains closed because of opposition from residents of adjacent retirement homes.

Executives and residents at both the Promontory and Montgomery assisted living facilities have sent a petition to Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston asking the city to keep the once Martini-heavy menu completely dry, leaving Bar Louie with few options.

"Everything has been done [to acquire the license]. We're past the waiting period, but there are some disagreeing parties in the neighborhood," said Bob McDermott, executive manager at the Hyde Park Bar Louie venue.

The main opposition comes from community members connected to the two retirement homes located on 55th and South Shore Drive, who feel that noisy late night crowds may disrupt the peacefulness highly valued by the seniors in residence there. Officials at the Promontory drafted a letter that was later signed by both the executive director of the Montgomery and Hairston, according to Dana Welta, activities director at the Montgomery retirement home.

Officials at both Hairston's office and the Promontory Retirement Home were unavailable to be reached for comment at press time.

"When TG's was there, there was a rowdy, loud crowd late at night. There were incidents that happened around this building, and I suppose some are worried it will happen again," Welta said, referring to a former neighborhood venue.

Despite the protests, officials at Bar Louie said the restaurant has become a popular eating establishment among many locals, and they feel as though alcohol sales will not dramatically alter their clientele.

"Quite a few people have been coming to eat. With time, people will find that it's more a restaurant than a bar," McDermott said.

Officials seem unconcerned about appealing to heavy-drinking college students, saying that the Bar Louie management strictly enforces Chicago alcohol regulations.

"We might get a small increase in graduate students coming here, but for the most part, we don't really cater to the college crowd," McDermott said. "We card very hard and don't tolerate any underage drinking at all."

Some suspect that the boisterous crowds of the past may have in fact not come from students or even bar patrons, but from a local element that gets particularly mischievous during the summer, Welta said.

Bar Louie has experienced repeated opening delays in the past six months, mostly involving zoning issues concerning the position of its entrance and the possibility of outdoor dining. Residents at the Flamingo, the apartment building that houses the venue, complained about the possible noise that could arise from customers lounging outside early in the morning, but ultimately Bar Louie received the necessary permits.

Lisa Lathoris, media spokesperson for the Restaurant Development Group, the company that owns Bar Louie, was out of town and unavailable to be reached for comment.