Booze On Tap In Oak Park! Well, A Wine Bar Anyway.
Within fifteen minutes of talking to any Oak Parker, you're guaranteed to hear the phrase, "Oak Park isn't like most places." But one month from today, Oak Park will take a shaky step towards the mainstream by opening its first establishment to serve primarily alcoholic drinks, The Abbey at 728 Lake St. Until now, only restaurants that served food could serve alcohol.
For those unaware of the peculiar peccadillos of the one time home of Frank Lloyd Wright and Earnest Hemingway, and the current home of illustrator Chris Ware and "Hoop Dreams" documentarian Steve James, the near west suburb has always been wary of change -- and outside influences. Oak Park is a village of stately Victorian homes, restricted by village law from changing their exterior appearance, and remarkable racial integration, promoted by the ground-breaking non-profit Housing Center, which fought the block busting so prevalent in 1960's West Side Chicago.
Founded in 1872, Oak Park was initally intended to be a quiet, Protestant response to the growing Catholic immigrant population in Chicago. It's conservative founders hewed to the straight and narrow by banning the "shot and beer" joints popular in Chicago, as well as the sale of alcohol in the 1870's -- laws that would remain in effect until 1973 when people got a bit loopy and allowed hotels and restaurants to serve alcohol with food. And then a few years ago the village board voted to allow grocery stores to sell alcohol -- but still not package stores.
Not surprisingly for Oak Park, the creation of its first alcohol service establishment in over 100 years hasn't happened in a single, sure motion. As recently as last week, Village Board members were questioning whether or not the matter has been "fully vetted". Maybe not, but it should be interesting to see if The Abbey fully satiates Oak Park's thirst for alcohol.
Image via Southeast Star"