Shelter-in-place has taken hold of many restaurants and bars, including the beloved neighborhood microbrew haven with covert liquor store entrance combo, Crown Liquors, which greatly saddened us (like it did pretty much the whole neighborhood).
The first time I went to Crown Liquors, I was actually on a Tinder date. Upon matching, my match asked if he could buy me a drink. However, when we discussed a meetup spot, he sent me a link to smalltabs.com, a website dedicated to listing cheap beer specials of the day. So romantic. Although unimpressed by his budget planning approach, I was pleasantly surprised to see Crown Liquors was on the list. I recalled hearing about this bar attached to a liquor store in Logan and thought, ‘What the hell, why not?’ The special running was $1-2 off microbrews on draft so at minimum I figured it would take the pressure off both of our wallets.
After walking through the liquor store corridor to the bar, I found my date posted up the bar with a beer already in hand, which seemed on brand. However, I also noticed the high ceilings, long extended chalkboard written beer specials, and plenty of room to dance and congregate in this unexpected large space. The patio on this particular August summer night was also spilling onto the sidewalk, bustling but not overcrowded. Despite being unimpressed by my date, I remember thinking that I liked this place. After drinking three beers at the same speed my date drank (chugged) six beers, we split the bill and parted ways. If you are still tracking this story and care about the ending: I turned down his invite for another date but I did return to Crown Liquors again.
Like you, I was crushed when the bar closed April 24 due to the financial stresses of the pandemic. We all had fond memories of the staff, drinks and bar, so we checked in with folks who shared their Crown memories and what the neighborhood will miss.
My old Logan Square neighbor, Andrea Perkins and I decided to go to Crown Liquors last December to exchange travel tips about an upcoming solo trip I had planned for Colombia. While recently reminiscing about that night, she shared a few other fond memories about Crown Liquors.
“I had my 24th birthday party there. It was a perfect birthday bar and reasonably priced beer and shots,” Perkins said. “I don’t think the music had a clear direction, but it was still lovable. I wasn’t sure what would be playing there, but it was acceptable. The scene was 20 to 30-year-olds and grungy, all walks of life. Overall, it was a great spot in the neighborhood.”
Perkins praised that “Crown Liquors was a comfortable space because the floors were a little bit dirty and the beer was super cheap and in close proximity-wise (you can just leave your house and be there).
“That is the beauty of a neighborhood bar,” she said. “Some of the other bars in Logan Square are getting a little too cute for me.”
Even the bartenders were very casual and relaxed and not pretentious or into themselves. They were direct yet chill, she recalls.
Carrie McGrath, another Logan Square resident and regular at Crown, recalled a few good theme nights she attended.
“Kelly, the bar manager, curated various theme nights, including a yacht rock night and a “Twin Peaks” viewing party. I had been to a few of them, and they would have always had a DJ playing yacht-esque rock in a Hawaiian shirt and served frozen piña coladas,” McGrath said. “Kelly created a cocktail menu inspired by the series. I thought that was really cool.”
McGrath, like many of us, got the sense that Crown was a good any-day-of-the-week or after workplace where you could run into neighbors with good beer and good cocktails.
“It had a really good community feel to it that I just really appreciated,” she said. “In addition to that, I loved their cocktails, particularly their Old Fashioned. I thought they had one of the best in the city.”
Matt DiMare, bartender at Crown Liquours for almost five years before its doors shut, said the closure news was deflating.
“I think at the time there was still some hope that things would get back to normal sooner than later, and that we’d be open for the summer at some capacity,” DiMare said of when the pandemic hit and the bar closed under the stay-at-home orders. “The news was definitely shocking and upsetting. It took several days for the reality to set in that this place that meant so much to all of us was no longer going to be there when this whole thing ended. Many of us were looking forward to having our first post-pandemic drink/hang at Crown.”
The bartender said the place was packed on Prince and Bowie nights. They were unforgettable.
“Everyone was singing, dancing, crying; very therapeutic. The Cubs World Series win was one for the books,” he said. “Kyle and the folks at Soothsayer Hot Sauce threw some amazing parties. And anytime Canadian Rifle played it was always crazy fun.”
DiMare’s most nostalgic memory was New Year’s s Eve in 2017/2018.
“The year before had been pretty slow so I was given the green light to run whatever special I wanted under the assumption it would be pretty chill,” he remembered. “We ran with $5 old fashions, which turned out to be a bad idea because we got slammed! The place was packed and the other bartender, the amazing Danni Acker, and I were just constantly making old fashions. Our fingers were so sore from stirring and peeling oranges.
“Eventually, we had to have our bar back (who was on his first night working behind the bar) joined us in cranking them like an assembly line where we could just grab and go. I think I made around 300 fashions that night alone. The place was partying, filled with familiar faces and friends, the whole neighborhood seemed to be there,” he said. “Everyone was singing and dancing and it just felt like we were the epicenter of our own universe that night. At one point around midnight, all of us behind the bar just stopped working for a moment to have a drink of our own and just reveled in it.”
A Home Away from Home: ‘We Cared About You’
He said Logan Square is losing a safe and accepting place for everyone in the community, notably for queer and trans folks on the West Side. It was a place you could be comfortable, whether you were having the best day or the worst day.
Crown Liquors’ closure is a sad reminder just how delicate and vulnerable our community can be under the difficult times of the year that is 2020, which is why it is so important to support your favorite businesses as often as possible — even more so during this time. After all, the choices we make every day in support of our neighborhood today will ultimately determine the neighborhood we enjoy in the future.
“Everyone that worked there cared — we gave a shit,” the bartender said. “We cared about you, the community, and the neighborhood. We tried our very best to make sure everyone that came there knew that they were part of our family, that we would look out for each other, we would protect each other, and we would pick each other up when needed. It’s a hard thing to find these days, a home away from home. We all cherished that aspect of it so much, and I hope the friends that resided in our barstools regularly know that we miss them and love them, and we are thankful they were a part of what we had.”
Not only did Crown Liquors embody the perfect dive: unpretentious and inclusive — it was also charming enough that it can turn a terrible date into a pretty damn good August summer night.
Crown Liquors, you will be missed. Cheers.
Erin Dickson contributed to this story.
Featured photo: Ariel Parrella-Aureli