I haven’t poured a drink, chosen a song to play, washed a glass, or greeted a regular at the Skylark since March 15, 2020. It was a Sunday that had an end-of-the-world feel. Nobody knew when we’d gather again. I made stupid-good tips. The next day, all Chicago restaurants and bars were ordered closed and everyone was told to stay home.
Within a day or two, a regular e-mailed me an invite to join SkypeLark—the kind of video group chat that is now the primary mode of communication for many millions. I politely declined, but I know a year later the group still meets nightly. I knew that the Skylark was a hub in Pilsen for more than 15 years, but it took the doors being shuttered to realize how many people made it the center of their social life.
Not a week has gone by since that Sunday in 2020 that someone hasn’t asked me when the bar would reopen. I have no good news to share. The Skylark never shifted to takeout or built plexiglass screens or took over the narrow sidewalk to adapt to the new realities of public plague life. It is a place that thrives on mingling and freedom of movement and can’t function under the necessary current restrictions.
I’d love to pour you a beer and tell you the name of the song on the stereo some Sunday night, but don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance again. Here’s hoping.