The beloved bar and nightclub Danny’s Tavern may close at the end of the month after nearly 30 years in Bucktown, according to managing owner Kevin Stacy.
“We’ve been served eviction papers from landlords of the building,” says Stacy, who’s worked for 18 years at Danny’s, which operates out of a former two-flat residence at 1951 W. Dickens. “It’s not a done deal yet but it’s getting close. It’s a distinct possibility.”
The threat of eviction, Stacy says, stems from a dispute with the building’s landlord and property owner about the bar’s lease, which he described as “month to month.” Stacy says he and his partners offered unsuccessfully to purchase the building and the lot.
“They just want to kick us out and tear it down. What we don’t get is why they won’t sell it to us, because another business is not going to move in here,” Stacy continues. “We own the liquor license. Once it stops being Danny’s it stops being anything except for a teardown.”
Stacy referred me to the management company’s representative Jann Dragovich, who did not return several calls seeking comment.
Known for its snug dance floor and popular DJ nights that often result in lines snaking down residential Dickens Avenue, Danny’s pays a high cost to do business in a gentrifying neighborhood with soaring rents, Stacy says. “Basically the bar has been breaking even. As busy as we are on the weekends, we’ve been breaking even.”
The tavern’s namesake, Danny Cimaglio, opened the bar in 1986 in partnership with a group of friends before selling the business in 1994 to upstart restaurateurs Terry Alexander and Michael Noone. The businessmen used Danny’s as a launching pad for what would become One Off Hospitality Group, which now includes Blackbird, Big Star, the Publican, the Violet Hour, and other bars and restaurants.
“Terry and his business partner Michael Noone are continuing to work with the landlord to find a resolution, and hope to be there for another 25 years,” One Off Hospitality’s publicist Jenna Liberman said in an e-mail this afternoon.
“I’ve been running it for 18 years,” says Stacy, who along with his wife owns a 20 percent share in Danny’s. “It means a lot to me. But I also understand that so many places have closed all over [Bucktown and Wicker Park]. It’s happening all over Chicago. . . . Chicago without Danny’s for me is going to be a tough place to live. It’s the kind of place that’s got the patience to dedicate itself to an atmosphere of quality. Danny’s is a unique place, and it’s not for everybody. It’s about conversation and music, and not every bar is like that.”
One of Danny’s biggest draws has been the long-running Sheer Magic, an evening of soul music hosted by deep crate diggers Dante Carfagna and Courtland Green.
“There are a bunch of soul parties around town, but they’re not like Courtland and Dante’s,” Stacy says. “They’re playing tomorrow, and they’re fully aware it might be their last one here.”
Stacy says he and his partners are “in a holding pattern.”
“I haven’t heard anything since Friday. The lawyers are apparently talking to each other. Michael and Terry haven’t called with any new news.”
Stacy’s still receiving deliveries of beer and booze, but he’s not placing any large orders, just in case things don’t work out in the bar’s favor.
“I’m hoping to hear that the lawyers work something out that keeps us open. That’s really basically it. I haven’t given up hope.”