Once catering to neighborhood Eastern Europeans (hence the name), Czar Bar evolved into a "friendly, low-rent" alternative/indie venue in the same manner of the also now-defunct Milk of Burgundy and Dreamerz. This was part of the Chicago "No Wave" scene that developed when all the Bohemians moved into the 'hood in the early 80's and 90's. Unfortunately, Czar Bar didn't last and is rumored to have closed after "a change of management," though I'm not sure quite when this occurred. Some say it was shuttered after being busted for serving under-agers...
I never had the pleasure to visit Czar Bar (before Chicago Bar Project time), but its memory remains and, for the moment, so does its shell on Division Street. If you have a story about Czar Bar, please e-mail me. Otherwise, check out Phyllis' Musical Inn just down the street where similar music can still be found.
This page is dedicated to "Zombo the Great," who jogged my memory about this place with his e-mail on June 6, 2005:
"Cool site (Chicago Bar Project)! My question is...what about the Czar Bar? Is it still there? If not, it should receive honorable mention. I saw some of my favorite shows there in the early 90's including Wesley Willis & the Fiasco, Wait For Light, Screw Party (later known as Muchacha), Baby Oil, Adam Jack, Blood Gin, etc. It sure was a dive, but they had cheap beer and loud local rock... literally a step-up from Phyllis'."
Other bands that played at Czar Bar include: Superchunk, Jesus Lizard, Cheer-Accident, Flying Luttenbachers, Cannanes, Juggernaut, Pansy Division, Germ Free Adolescents, and DragKing
"DragKing used to play many shows at the Czar Bar on Division Street. Eliot would always be there trying as hard as he could to make sense out of the chaos. DragKing played this particular night with two bands that they played with often during that time. Tthe show started out with the beautiful industrial noise of CDC. Then DragKing came on and played their music. Loud, noisy, and always exploring new territory. This was one of the last ever shows with Barrett on guitar and one of the few shows where he didn't have some sort of equipment problem. Then Halcyon came on and rocked the house majestic. Waking everyone up with their drunken kick you in the face rock and roll. Finally in the wee hours of the morning Specula played for as long as he could before the asshole owners of the place pulled the plugs and made everyone leave. A great night of music from bands that sound nothing alike and yet were all connected."
"I saw your Czar Bar web page and wanted to respond. I played in a band called Germ Free Adolescents back in the 80's and early 90's. I remember vividly the January gig at the Czar bar--it was cold as hell and I had to wear gloves while playing drums. Here's an excerpt from www.clepunk.com: '"Germ Free Adolescents was again gigging and zigzagging venues throughout the region back on the road for a 1990 Christmas Eve show at CBGB's, then over to the Czar Bar in Chicago just after New Year's Day on tour with kindred spirits and Cleveland underground band, Plain White Toast.' Cheers, and long live the memories of the Czar Bar!"
J.C. (July 17, 2006)
"'That's how the Czar Bar got started,' Kuvo said. 'Artists were moving in, and the old people were gone, dead, or moved to Florida. Other clubs, like Metro, even Lounge Ax, wouldn't let us play. They were assholes to us.'"
Excerpt from the article "No wave Napoleon The Flying Luttenbachers' Weasel Walter touches down in the Bay Area" by Deborah Giattina
"Once populated by old Polish immigrants, the Czar Bar now is the nesting ground for the young, artsy set. Even Billboard magazine touts it as one of Wicker Park's hippest clubs. Packed elbow-to-elbow with grungy Generation X types, the 300-capactiy club swelters on the weekend. The jukebox is crammed with Patti Smith classics, and bands such as Vaginal Creme Davis occasionally perform. If you call the club mid-week, chances are you'll speak with someone who doesn't understand what you're saying unless you're saying it in Polish. Try Thursday through the weekend and you'll do just fine."
Gayot's The Best of Chicago by Gault Millau (1995)
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