Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Haunted Chicago Bar Closes Down to Revamp

By Hal Conick

Februray 27, 2008

A couple stepped into Chicago’s Red Lion Pub on Lincoln Avenue mid day on a Wednesday afternoon. A portly fellow sitting at the bar reading a book told them to grab a seat anywhere they please.

“Do you work here? Sometimes it’s really hard to tell,” says the woman. He did not; instead, he was just there as a regular who was friendly with not only the customers, but bartenders and co-owners Joseph Heinin and Colin Cordwell.

The couple was not there for the beer, scotch, or the shepherd’s pie, but to take one last look before they had to say goodbye to the pub.

Unfortunately for fans of the English style bar, the owners have shut the Red Lion’s doors for about six months, starting February 24, in order for it to be torn down and built back up.

“I have such good memories of this place. There were definitely some good nights I don’t remember here.” The couple took one last look around before they stepped back outside.

But up until recently, no one knew when the bar would be closing its doors. Not even Heinin and Cordwell.

“That’s the question I’d like to have answered,” Heinin said in a late January interview. “I guess it’s all up to when City Hall gives us the word that we can start construction. It depends on when we get the permits. No one knows yet.”

The co-owners finally found out that they’d be able to start construction, and quickly closed their doors starting late February. In place of the sign outside that said they would soon be closing, it now says “Closed as of 2/24- see you in six months”.

In closing the Red Lion, Chicago loses what is considered its scariest bar. It’s known for being one of the more haunted places in Illinois, with stories of the ladies room door being held shut for 20 minutes at a time when occupied, or the scent of lavender surfacing from a ghost who didn’t know how much perfume to put on.

Many patrons have wondered what the need is to close down this historical bar, but it’s painfully obvious on a quick walk around the Red Lion. The floors are in awful shape, sinking in at various locations. They badly need to be redone, but the announcement still came as a shock to the regulars. Heinin doesn’t speak pleasantly about the current state of the pub, describing the building, built in 1880, as “decrepit”.

Heinin is extremely open in talking about the state of the bar’s construction. Red Lion’s friendly atmosphere is one thing that sets it apart from any bar on Lincoln Avenue. The usual 21-24 year old frat-like crowd is replaced by a crowd of older men and women watching anything from the History Channel to the Three Stooges on the television above the bar.

Ryan Connery, a senior at DePaul University and regular customer at the Red Lion, is worried the Red Lion might lose something in the renovation.

“What I’m afraid of is it’s going to lose its charm,” says Connery. “It had a different feel from any other bar I’ve been to in the city- it was really comfortable. Plus the place had history behind it, and in my opinion it was one of the only good bars in the area.”

“We’re going to try to reproduce the interior as much as possible,” says Heinin. “But a lot of the crooked angles of the current set up are going to be gone, which we can’t help.”

As for the Red Lion’s ghosts, Heinin says “I’ve heard from people that in these situations, half the time the ghosts stay. The other half, they choose to leave. It remains to be seen if they’ll stay or go here.”

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