The pandemic decimated tens of thousands of bars and restaurants across the country, including a popular tavern in Chicago's Lake View neighborhood.
The former owner of Guthries Tavern announced in July that the watering hole at Addison Street and Lakewood would close permanently because of COVID-19 restrictions.
To the surprise of neighbors and longtime customers, the bar reopened under new ownership Friday with the same name and aesthetic inside, along with a few upgrades.
"We just wanted to make sure it had some modern amenities as far as HVAC and plumbing goes, but still maintain the existing vibe," said co-owner Mark Baldino.
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The new ownership group, comprised of two brothers and their business partner, said it was important to them to keep the legacy of Guthries alive.
"People were deeply impacted by this bar closing," Baldino said. "Our goal throughout was to keep the same vibe and atmosphere."
The bar is known for its board games and craft beer selection and as a popular first or second date spot.
"A lot of people get engaged here or come here after they get engaged," said co-owner Matthew Baldino. "It’s an easy, relaxed atmosphere and environment."
The owners also kept the original ceiling tiles, which were hand-painted by patrons. They did, however, upgrade the bathrooms, install a new beer cooler, and build an outdoor seating area.
"It really gave me the chills to see people back here having a great time," said co-owner Brett Keeshin.
Patrons could be seen filling the tavern Monday afternoon, just three days after the reopening.
"One of my favorite spots to get a board game in," said customer Patrick Mahon. "It’s great they kept the look right."
"You hate to see businesses close due to the pandemic. It’s just good to see them bounce back. I know everyone is excited," said customer Jordan Swiderski.
The new owners, who have all spent time in this bar in the past, call saving it a 'once in a lifetime opportunity' they couldn't pass up.
"I think what drove my desire to buy this is the number of neighborhood bars that have gone out of business in the last 20 years, and more importantly during COVID," Matthew Baldino said.
"I thought there was some value in saving a piece of Chicago history."