Beloved Logan Square cocktail icon Lost Lake (3154 W. Diversey Ave.) announced on Instagram last weekend its unfortunate upcoming closure. The tropical bar will be open for one final hurrah, from Jan. 13 to 15, poetically beginning its final weekend of service on its seventh birthday.
As Logan Square loses one of its premiere cocktail destinations, we can’t help but look back with fondness at the many nights spent escaping Chicago winters, kicking back with banana daiquiris and admiring just how important Lost Lake became to the Logan Square community.
When the bar debuted in 2015, Logan Square wasn’t quite the cocktail mecca residents are used to today, though the neighborhood already boasted several premier spots for a mixed drink. Before Lost Lake, Logan’s primary cocktail destinations included Scofflaw (3201 W. Armitage Ave.) and The Whistler (2421 N, Milwaukee Ave.), the latter of which Lost Lake founder Paul McGee made famous.
When McGee ultimately left acclaimed River North tropical lounge Three Dots and a Dash to open Lost Lake, he set out to create a more casual, neighborhood feel than at his former workspace. He certainly succeeded, and Lost Lake would go on to become one of Logan Square’s longest-tenured cocktail bars.
Logan Square Community Provides Support Amid Pandemic
Throughout the pandemic, the Lost Lake team held firm in its resolve to reopen the bar only when it truly felt safe to do so. To stay afloat and continue supporting its staff, the bar sold many of its famous cocktails out of a makeshift to-go window that itself became a destination along Diversey Avenue.
In addition to offering premade, to-go cocktails, Lost Lake treated customers of the long-standing Rum Club to a new delivery service, helping the team continue supporting staff during a tumultuous time. Finally, after more than a year and a half of waiting, Lost Lake was set to reopen for in-person service.
“The further you are from palm trees and sunshine, the more special tiki feels. It’s a genuine escape.” This was the motto Rum Club creator Martin Cate gave to the opening staff, and it never rang truer than at Lost Lake’s reopening in September.
But, struggling all along to avoid closing during the pandemic, Lost Lake finally succumbed to the latest, omicron-fueled spike in COVID-19, the bar said in its announcement. “We’ve been trying to ward off this moment since #flattenthecurve, but as it turns out, a superspreader surge that wiped out what would usually be our busiest time of year was the last little straw this camel could handle.”
Lost Lake’s Long-Awaited Return, Sans “Tiki”
When management ultimately decided the time was right to reopen last fall, they did so with a variety of changes, the most notable being the eschewing of the phrase and label of “tiki.”
“It’s become clear that tiki culture cannot be divorced from cultural appropriation and colonialism, which is the reason for the shift to ‘tropical,’” spokesperson Carrie Sloan wrote back in September.
In addition, the bar implemented a no-tip policy after reopening. A note on the new menu explained that traditional tipping was “shown to reflect and amplify racial inequities, contribute to racial profiling, and encourage sexual harassment.” While prices may have seemed initially higher than patrons remembered, the all-inclusive price allowed management to provide more consistent wages and better benefits for their staff, a postpandemic trend seen throughout the industry.
A Fond Farewell
What’s next for owner Shelby Allison and the rest of the team remains to be seen. Customers have already booked all available reservations for the bar’s final weekend of service, and to-go cocktails were completely sold out last weekend.
If customers would still like to make one last trip to the tropical oasis, there will be very limited space for walk-ins this weekend, capped at 60-minute stays. Bottled cocktails will also be sold on an entirely first-come, first-served basis, with no preorders.
When asked for additional comment, spokesperson Carrie Sloan kept her words short and sweet: “Lost Lake is grateful for all the support over the last seven years, and particularly the past two.”
I and the rest of the Logan Squarist team will always look back on the many nights spent at Lost Lake with a sense of appreciation. Some of my favorite memories since moving to Logan Square in 2016 include splitting the bar’s over-the-top shared cocktails with friends.
“I was only able to make it there once, but it was my first time seeing a banana-shaped like a dolphin, and I will always remember that,” photographer Francisco Hernandez said.
“One of my favorite memories was spending a few hours at the bar with my partner trying different kinds of rum,” staff writer Kristina Alto said. “Everyone behind the bar was incredibly knowledgeable, and we loved learning about everything we were drinking.
“The last time I went was for a friend’s bachelorette party, but I was pregnant so couldn’t indulge as usual,” she continued. “They had a great, but small list of N/A [nonalcoholic] drinks, but when I mentioned how much I missed that famous banana dolphin, they made a nonalcoholic version for me, no problem. Their kindness and hospitality will be missed just as much as their drinks and their food.”
My fondest Lost Lake memory took place in 2019. My girlfriend and I escaped what became a brutal Chicago winter on both Halloween and Christmas Eve, letting ourselves pretend we were somewhere far away for an evening as so many others did. Drinking tropical cocktails while dressed as “Blades of Glory” characters will always be a special memory for me.
I and the rest of the Logan Square community were lucky to call Lost Lake our own tropical paradise.
Featured Photo: Steve Weishampel