Schubas & Southport Lanes
In 1884, Chicago’s city fathers tried to stop the evil practice of men drinking beer by charging exorbitant fees for licensing taverns. Brewery owners responded with the idea of the “tied house.” In this arrangement, breweries would supply not only the beer, but the building and the “bar” in return for one-hundred-percent exclusivity for their product. Breweries like Atlas and Peter Hand built some tied houses, but the most common link between brewery and bar owner was Schlitz. Recognized for the relief of a blue globe and Schlitz logo on the side of the building, thirteen Schlitz “tied houses” remain in Chicago sprinkled from Bucktown to Brighton Park. Many of them still operate as bars. But which is the best tied house? It is, of course, a tie between Schubas and Southport Lanes, each down the street from each other on Southport. For decades, Schubas has been a first-tier venue for live music, specializing in indie rock and folk. Featuring a giant bar, a good-sized entertainment room and even a New Orleans weekend brunch, Schubas is a Chicago institution. So is Southport Lanes and Billiards. Opened around 1905, the building has at times served as a bar, take-out liquor center, bookie joint, pool hall and restaurant, and the current and former owners claim that the rooms upstairs (now offices) were used by prostitutes working the bar below. In other words, the place was a one-stop shopping mall for sin and debauchery. Today, it still serves food and has kept most of its beautiful turn-of-the-century wood-and-glass bar.
Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, (773)525-2508;
Southport Lanes, 3325 N. Southport, (773)472-6600
Best of Chicago 2008