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Watch out Boystown, Rogers Park becoming the new gayborhood

(Tony Peregrin )
February 24, 2012|By Tony Peregrin, RedEye contributor

The fresh, new enclave of gay bars isn’t tucked away in Boystown or even Andersonville—it’s on the Glenwood Arts District strip in Rogers Park, or as bar owner Colm Treacy calls it “Gay North.”

“I know some people have referred to his area as Boystown North, but there are just as many lesbians in the neighborhood—which is why I think of it simply as Gay North,” explains Treacy, 45, co-owner of  the new martini bar Sidecar Bar, the latest LGBT establishment to take root in Rogers Park.

Treacy co-owns four LGBT establishments in total: The Glenwood, Sidecar, Morsel and T’s bar in Andersonville. He previously owned the Sofo bar in Andersonville, renamed The Sofo Tap by the current owners.

Last June, Treacy co-sponsored a gay pride street festival called Pride North—featuring performances by Sixteen Candles and MooseBox—held immediately following the popular gay pride parade in Boystown.

“We did the street fest anticipating that the gay and lesbian community would not necessarily want to hang out in Boystown after the parade. We expected around 750 people, but we actually had close to 5,000 people show up,” said Treacy, who plans to host the Pride North fest again this year.

Sidecar—co-owned by Treacy’s life partner of 18 years Tom Hoang— is located in the space formerly occupied by Duke’s Bar, which closed after the death of its owner. Treacy—a trained chef and former culinary arts instructor—acquired and renovated the space after they were approached by the bar owner’s widow.

Sidecar’s name was inspired by its close proximity to the L, and by old fashioned cocktails which are a house specialty of the 700 square-foot establishment located a mere block away from Treacy’s other LGBT bar, The Glenwood.

At 2,800 square feet, The Glenwood is larger than its younger sibling and features a popular dance floor.

“One of our most popular nights at The Glenwood is Retro on the Red, a monthly dance party Marc [Moder] does once a month. People like the opportunity to let their hair down and dance, and they don’t have to go outside of the community to do that,” Treacy said.

In April, The Glenwood, co-owned by Renee Labrana, will celebrate its five-year anniversary.

Treacy said a bar co-owned by both a gay man and a lesbian might seem like an unusual arrangement to some, but for The Glenwood it simply means they effortlessly attract an eclectic mix of patrons—including many heterosexual residents in the area.

Situated halfway between Sidecar and The Glenwood is Morsel, a new LGBT-friendly American bistro set to open this spring. Morsel, located at 1406 Morse, is also co-owned by Treacy, and by Mary Ann Culleton, Labrana’s wife.

You might think Treacy and his partners would be somewhat trepidatious about launching not one, but two new businesses in an unstable economy, but he’s confident the businesses will thrive.

“It’s been my experience that when the economy is good, people drink. And when the economy is bad, people drink,” Treacy said, with a wink and a smile.

Treacy said he thinks neighborhood pubs and taverns are a dying breed in Chicago, and opening one is no easy task for a business owner.

“Getting a tavern license can be very, very difficult for a business owner,” he said. “It keeps getting harder and more expensive to be in business, especially for smaller businesses. It all has to do with location, I believe. Bars that are located in neighborhoods closer to the lake or with access to public transport will continue to thrive.”

“We are grateful to the alderman and the community for embracing us as business owners,” he continued. “They have been very welcoming to us and they’ve acknowledged that we are trying to make the community better.”

The Glenwood, Sidecar, and Morsel are part of a larger LGBT landscape within the Rogers Park area which includes Jackhammer, Touché, Parlour, and the Leather Archives and Museum.

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