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Geek Bar Turns To Crowdfunding To Keep Their Doors Open

By Jim Bochnowski in News on Jul 23, 2015 4:45PM

David Zoltan had a dream to bring a geek-friendly drinking space to Chicago. It wasn't easy, but Zoltan finally found a permanent home in Wicker Park. Now he is turning to crowdfunding to help him keep the space open.

We first wrote about Geek Bar, a home away from home where Chicagoans can drink beer, watch Doctor Who and play Settlers of Catan to their hearts' content, in March of 2014, when the bar took over Mad River Bar & Grille to serve as a preview of the space. At the time, organizers hoped to open up a permanent space at 1960 N. Clybourn Ave. that May.

Since that time, the bar has been through a significant amount of turmoil. Funders pumped a reported $300,000 into making the space on Clybourn a viable option for the bar, while operating from its temporary location in Wicker Park.

But then things took a turn for the worse. The city wouldn't approve building permits for the bar, according to the GoFundMe page.

"Between a hostile community group and a new ward map that gave us two aldermen that didn’t seem concerned with supporting us, we ended up without any significant political support to help push us through that process," the page says.

Zoltan explained to DNAinfo, "We wanted to bring in a business that was warm and welcoming to all people, especially our geek community. They were worried about people walking back and forth in cosplay, or whether or not we were going to have valet parking."

Diane Levin, the head of the planning group for that neighborhood, told DNAinfo she disagrees with Zoltan's characterization of the meetings. She wasn't concerned that people would walk around her hood dressed in cosplay attire, she said, but rather that those people wouldn't be safe while making the long walk from the bar to public transit at night.

So Geek Bar turned to a space at 1941 W. North Ave., where they created an "extended pop-up" in hopes of housing themselves temporarily until the situation in Lincoln Park worked itself out. But the permanent location never happened, and they're now looking into turning the Wicker Park pop-up space into a permanent location for the Geek Bar. But that costs money.

Zoltan has also incurred a number of debts, largely due to payroll, he said. So Zoltan has opened up a GoFundMe page to raise $20,000—$11,000 to pay back taxes, $6,000 to pay back wages, and $3,000 to pay rent. He also has a secondary goal of raising an additional $55,000, $30,000 of which will be used as an "operational reserve so we never, ever, have to do this again." The rest will go to marketing and renovations for the bar.

The GoFundMe asks: "If you or someone you know can help Geek Bar, I want and need to talk to you now. We can make this all work and achieve our vision of celebrating and fostering geek culture in all its forms with your help."