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WICKER PARK — A beloved dive bar shuttered for several months is ready to undergo a gut rehab under new ownership, who plan to turn what was long known as the Beachwood Inn into Mae Belle Tavern Grocery.
Along with a bar, Mae Belle Tavern Grocery at 1415 N. Wood St. will feature a separate “to go” element which will serve as the grocery, offering up made-to-order food items, as well as various other artisan goods by chef Brian Jupiter, a spokeswoman for Pioneer Tavern Group said Friday.
The new venture is led by Jupiter, beverage director Sean Nielsen and Pioneer Tavern Group owner Mark Domitrovich. The group also owns Lottie’s Pub, 1925 W. Cortland St., as well as Pioneer and The Pony Inn.
While the bar’s current interior appears to be full of bricks, rubble and sawdust, the spokeswoman assured that the vintage corner building is not being demolished.
“Once construction does start, it will only be updates to the interior and slight modifications/updates to the exterior – not a demolition. Pioneer Tavern Group hopes to preserve as many of the Beachwood’s original furnishings as possible,” the spokeswoman said.
Workers onsite said they are planning to add windows to the side of the corner building that faces Beach Street.
The spokeswoman said design plans are still in the process of being finalized, so there are no renderings to reveal yet or a target opening date.
Leah Root, a Wicker Park resident who lives near the bar, said she is happy to see movement in construction.
“Glad there is finally some action at Beachwood and glad they are not tearing it down,” Root said.
At the corner of Beach and Wood Streets — the location inspired the inn’s name — the building was bought last year by Kyle and Timothy Glascott. The father-and-son team has invested in several other bar buildings, and often rents them to established operators, as was the case with Division Street’s SmallBar, now Pub Royale.
Though Pioneer Tavern Group has only owned Lottie’s Pub since 2002, the original proprietor of that pub, Lottie Zagorski, served as a mentor to the widowed owner of Beachwood Inn in the 1960s, according to Beachwood Inn’s former owners.
Leonard Stepien, who founded Beachwood Inn in 1950, was killed in an armed robbery inside the bar in November of 1963. The bar owner’s sons, Jim Stepien, and Bob Stepien, were just 13 and 3, respectively, at the time.
After Leonard’s death, his wife, Lorraine, ran the bar for 33 more years until she died in 1996, the Stepien sons said in an interview with DNAinfo Chicago last June, during the bar’s final night of business after a 65-year run.
Brian Page, who tended bar at Beachwood Inn for eight years, posted photos of the interior demolition to his Facebook page.
“It’s the death of another neighborhood bar. I’m thinking of using one of the pics for a cover of a country drinking compilation,” Page said.
Beachwood Inn on Sept. 30, 2016. [Courtesy of Brian Page and Mike Young]
Beachwood Inn Pre-Construction. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
The dusty and brick-filled Beachwood Inn. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
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