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The Beer Bistro Buys Small Bar Fullerton

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Apr 30, 2012 10:30PM

Small Bar Fullerton will morph into The Beer Bistro North starting May 10. (Phot: Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist)

There was a major shakeup involving Chicago’s beer bar scene this afternoon with the news that Small Bar Fullerton was being bought by the Beer Bistro.

Chicagoist spoke with Small Bar’s Phil McFarland and The Beer Bistro’s Bob McDermott about how the deal came about and the details regarding the sale. McFarland said discussions first began on the deal at the beginning of the year. “The thing I’ve realized is it would be best to focus all of our talents to one location.”

That would be Small Bar’s Division Street outpost in Wicker Park, which always seems to do good business whenever we visit. Small Bar Fullerton, however, is located near DePaul University and vying with other bars offering dollar beer specials nightly. McDermott’s West Loop tavern also has a reputation for serving a wide range of artisan beers, but they also keep mass-produced beers like Budweiser and Miller on hand for customers who want those beers. “We recognize that not everyone is a fan of great-tasting ale,” McDermott said. “But we feel that, if we can get someone into the door by offering a Bud, we have a good chance to change his mind.”

McFarland said that, with Small Bar’s gradual integration of quality beer into everything they do, particularly how the food menu is now developed to complement the beer, and the addition of chef Justin White and mixologist Craig Hiljus. made him think “it’s best if we focus our talents to one location”

“When we opened the Fullerton bar originally, it lent itself better to the neighborhood,” McFarland said. “As we’ve changed, I realized I don’t want to compromise what we do based on a location.”

McDermott’s offer to buy Small Bar Fullerton was first broached as McFarland started to discuss the future of the bar with his investors there. “What I liked about what Bob had in mind for the bar was he wasn’t looking to gut it,” McFarland said. “I wanted to make sure someone was taking it over who would keep some staff and still be able to offer most of the same beers we do.”

McDermott agrees. “It’s a nice bar, but it can be kind of cold with all that exposed brick in the room,” he said. “So we’re only looking to make some minor cosmetic changes like add artwork on the walls.”

Besides offering beers from the Anheuser-Busch/InBev and Miller-Coors, McDermott plans on simplifying the food menu to the good quality pub grub served at the Beer Bistro. “We’re going to keep our menu simple: Pizzas, burgers and the like,” he said. “We aren’t looking to serve foie gras or farm to table produce. That doesn’t mean that the food we serve can’t complement our beers just as well.”

McDermott said he expects what he now is calling “The Beer Bistro North” to open on May 10. Small Bar Logan Square will remain intact.