Word is going round that Ric Hess, the owner of Sheffield’s, died of a heart attack last night while at his popular north-side bar and restaurant.

His Facebook page is exploding with condolences.

Ric made his living running his bar, but his heart was that of a writer. He studied fiction writing at Columbia College, and Sheffield’s became a haven for writers and literary events, such as the monthly series RUI: Reading Under the Influence.

On February 24, Sheffield’s is scheduled to hold a Chicago Literati Networking event. The press release quotes Ric as saying, “We all need somewhere that is neither work nor home where we can rub elbows with our friends and neighbors, let our hair down and relax—a Third Place to call our own. One of Sheffield’s underlying philosophies is to always strive to be that good Third Place, for the Lakeview neighborhood, Chicago and for the writer and story teller in us all.”

I don’t know yet if the event will still take place. I expect Ric would want it to.

He was my friend, a friend to Chicago literary community and to, I think I can say without much exaggeration, countless others.

There’s a wonderful tribute from writer Marcus Sakey here.

Update: Dana Kaye of Kaye Publicity says the networking event will definitely go on. She writes, “Ric’s vision was to bring people together and I see no better way to honor him.”