Thursday, December 02, 2010

Chicago's Gastropub Revolution

Thanks to Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap just down the street (for now) from Meadville Lombard. Via the Chicago Bar Project
Chicago's smoking ban went into effect January 1, 2008, thanks in large part to the Woodlawn Tap, known to its Hyde Park clientele as "Jimmy's" in honor of the bars long-time proprietor, Jimmy Wilson. According to Sean Parnell, creator of Chicago Bar Project and author of Historic Bars of Chicago, "The Sun-Times surveyed the air quality according to EPA standards in the smokiest Chicago restaurants and bars and found Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap to be the worst. Patrons had always claimed that the bar was smoky, but no one realized that it was equivalent to breathing in the air following a volcanic eruption."

Critics warned the ban would spell doom for the traditional Chicago bar. They were right. Gone are the days when bars can rely on faithful regulars putting in eight-hour shifts on their favorite stool. This has literally cleared the air and forced a change of strategy for any would-be bar owner. It's also created a pleasant side-effect: bars have become accessible to a whole range of new clientele. Women are increasingly attracted to gastropubs and gastrolounges because they no longer fear leaving with hair and clothes smelling like an ashtray at a downtown Vegas casino after 10 minutes, and their more discriminating palates are satisfied by the upscale board of fare. And with so many young professionals living in the area, a smoke-free atmosphere with fine food & drink also appeals to those with small children before they make their required exodus to the suburbs. Thus, tables are filled by day with families, in early evening with couples, and at night with those seeking after-dinner drinks and perhaps more than just culinary sustenance… While the focus may now be more on turning tables than turning coasters at Chicago bars, the goal is still the same—to create an experience that will drive repeat business and they've done just that.

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