Chicago Bar Project since 2000

Bluebird Lounge

1637 N. Clybourn Ave. (1600N, 800W)
Chicago, IL 60614
R.I.P. April 29, 2000

Editor's note: The Copa now inhabits the old Bluebird space

Like the similarly named Blue Parrot, the Bluebird Lounge was a well loved 90s bar that has gone the way of brethren Augenblick, MaxTavern, Great Beer Palace, and the US Beer Company oh, wait a minute, the US Beer Company should be closed but is still open... Anyway, the Bluebird Lounge straddled both Lincoln Park and Bucktown and appealed equally to both neighborhoods even with their bipolar personalities. Today, a swanky lounge called Copa inhabits the red-brick three-flat, and typifies the regentrification that has gone on along this section of Clybourn since the mid-1990's. There's nothing wrong with Copa, but the character of Bluebird is missed to this day, particularly with the staff at Newcity Chicago.

A bright blue neon "Bluebird Lounge" sign once glowed in one of the bar's two narrow rectangular windows, complimenting the city's last orange neon Blatz sign above the door, and in contrast to the bar's otherwise uninviting black-painted clapboard façade. The interior of Bluebird's one-room, darkened space was dimly lit by an eclectic array of light fixtures. An old wooden bar ran the length of the north wall, featuring a series regulars perched on high-backed barstools downing a sampling of the ten reasonably priced microbrews on tap while taking in enough taxidermy on the wall to make the owners of Grizzly's Lodge and Will's Northwoods Inn jealous. The stuffed animals went along well with the wildlife paintings, fishing-themed pinball and hunting paraphernalia. The bar also offered a Centipede arcade machine. Instead of having a jukebox, the bartenders played mostly alternative rock interspersed with old-school country on a stereo, and Bluebird also occasionally hosted live music such as a band called the "Crown Royals". The whole of which appealed immensely to both the young professional crowd as well as nuevo bohemians, including the odd literary enthusiast.

"By this point I'm feeling kind of dozy from all the booze, but our next stop lies just on the other side of the Clybourn station, so we keep going. The Bluebird Lounge is a gem, green in decor, comfortably retro. Marya wants a fuzzy navel, and though the affable bartender doesn't know how to make one, he's amenable to executing our best guess. The result isn't exactly a fuzzy navel, but it's good. I have a glass of ale, and we settle into a booth for a conversation marked by long pauses and forgotten points."

ndash; excerpt from "Keir Graff celebrates spring with a pub crawl by El" in Newcity Chicago (May 10, 1999)

Even with its funky 50's atmosphere and somewhat gritty, run-down appearance, the Bluebird Lounge was a favorite to many. Newcity Chicago even named it the "Best bar that closed (in the last year or so)" in 2000, when the owner Bob McHale's lease was not renewed. If you like Bluebird or find its description appealing, check out Wrigleyville's Nisei Lounge, Wicker Park's Rainbo Club or Pilsen's Skylark and you'll find a similar vibe today. See you there, chief.

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