The Abbey's Chicago Location on Hold

Owners of The Abbey Bar of West Hollywood back away from opening a location in Chicago's Boystown neighborhood.

Plans for one of West Hollywood’s most famous gay nightclubs to open on North Halsted Street in the Lake View community of Chicago, IL, are still on hold after business owners walked away in July, but there may still be a glimmer of hope.  

Los Angeles-based entertainment group ‘sbe’ set its sights on the former 12,000-square-foot Brompton Auto garage at 3532 N. Halsted Street—located within Chicago's Boystown neighborhood—to open a second location of The Abbey Food and Bar. However, after being confronted with extremely high cleanup costs to deal with environmental hazards left behind from the former business, the group backed away.

Chicago businesswoman Wendy Berger Sharpio, who was facilitating the deal between sbe and Lake View officials, confirmed the existence of a contract to purchase the location, reports Best Gay Chicago. But according to Sharpio, plans to bring The Abbey to Chicago's Boystown may not be completely dead.

“I never say never," Sharpio told Patch in an email. “I am sorry, I can not give you any more details. David Cooley, founder of The Abbey, remains a dear friend.”

According to Triangle Neighbors President and Roscoe’s Tavern owner Jim Ludwig, zoning regulations at the former Brompton Auto have since been changed again so it can go back to its original restrictions for condos. 

The expansion to Chicago was part of The Abbey and sbe’s plan to open multiple locations of the popular bar around the United States. While no locations have been officially selected yet, plans to expand are still on the books.

“While no specific locations have been finalized for national expansion, Cooley and sbe are exploring locations where The Abbey's open-air concept would work best, including Miami's South Beach, Atlanta, San Francisco, Dallas, Las Vegas and Phoenix,” The Abbey’s website reads.

And although officials with The Abbey have walked away from Chicago's Boystown at the moment, some think opening a national chain on North Halsted might have been a risky move. Chief of Staff Bennett Lawson—the spokesman for Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), whose ward would house the new club—says local business owners almost exclusively own the bars and restaurants in the popular corridor.

Plans to bring a replica of “The Best Gay Bar in the World” to Chicago would have been a very different move.

“While some national presence is good, its not really best for the bar business unless you’re talking about a Hooters or something like that,” Lawson said. “You want it to be a local crowd although they cater to the suburban tourist. To have some outside money is a little concerning to some local business owners.”

The Abbey was originally opened as a coffeehouse in West Hollywood in 1991 before its rapid growth and expansion into a bar, restaurant and nightclub. It was most recently in the national news circuit for banning bachelorette parties until marriage equality is reached. 

This story originated on Lake View Patch. It has been edited for localization.

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