The California Clipper reopens this week under new ownership after being off for 2 years

HUMBOLDT PARK — About two years after an abrupt closure and a legal battle with former owner, Chicago staple The California Clipper is set to reopen to the public Thursday with the same look and feel as the original.

The Orbit Group, a new hotel group that opened Italian restaurant Segnatore across the street, has spent the last year resurrecting the beloved bar at 1002 N. California Ave. The result is nearly identical to the previous iteration, save for a seating area that’s taken over the former CC Ferns cafe space and a premium sound system.

Its iconic red lights and cozy vinyl booths haven’t changed, nor has its old wooden bar – details people associate with the tavern.

“We really wanted to stay true to its story and give it some love without changing the vibe and the feel,” said Briana Martin of Siren Betty Design, the company responsible for revamping the space.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The California Clipper, 1002 N. California Ave., on February 21, 2022 before its reopening in Humboldt Park.

Perhaps the biggest change, and audiophiles will appreciate: The Orbit Group completely overhauled the bar’s outdated sound system with the help of sound engineers Chris Grabowski and Herman Chigrin. The bar is now equipped with “Ferrari” sound systems, including Tannoy speakers, Grabowski said.

With its acoustic panels, the lounge area of ​​the bar, where CC Ferns once stood, is a listening room specially designed to enjoy drinks and music.

“These speakers are in Abbey Road studios. These speakers are where they mixed ‘Dark Side of the Moon’. So if you come here and listen to this record, you should be able to get closer to the more possible the moment they were doing it,” Grabowski said.

As before the pandemic, The Clipper will regularly host live music. Bands and performers will grace the stage twice a week pandemic permitting, said Jesse Sandvik, the bar’s music supervisor. The hotel group also plans to bring back monthly burlesque shows and add other regular events to its schedule, like drag king shows.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The California Clipper, 1002 N. California Ave., on February 21, 2022 before its reopening in Humboldt Park.

When it comes to drinks, the hotel group keeps it simple and offers a range of classic cocktails like The Matador and The Cardinale, as well as community staples like Puerto Rico’s premier beer, Medalla Light, Polish drinks and the Chicago handshake. , a shot of Malort and an Old Style.

Just because the Clipper has been updated doesn’t mean it’s suddenly a craft cocktail bar, said assistant manager Marta Jean Evans. Rather, the opposite is true: the hotel group aims to pay homage to the history of the bar and the rapidly changing neighborhood with a menu that feels familiar, she said.

“We’re trying to make sure that we respect this neighborhood that’s been around for a long time and is honestly being gentrified so quickly, and we want to make sure that we’re not just snowballing on that,” Jean Evans mentioned. “We want to make sure the neighborhood knows how community-driven we’re going to be and how respectful we’re going to be to the bricks they’ve laid in front of us.”

The Clipper’s rebirth comes after two turbulent years for the bar.

Former owner Brendan Sodikoff, who owns several popular restaurants and bars in Chicago, including Au Cheval and Green Street Smoked Meats, abruptly closed the Clipper and nearby CC Ferns cafe in May 2020, saying he couldn’t make any rent because of the pandemic. .

Emails provided by building owner Gino Battaglia showed that Sodikoff wanted out of the lease.

Battaglia filed a lawsuit against Sodikoff, accusing him of skipping rent and damaging the bar in the process. The parties reached a settlement in the case last March, leaving room for the Orbit group to step in and bring the bar back to life.

From day one, the Orbit group has been primarily concerned with maintaining the integrity of the tavern, which has been in operation since the 1930s but has hosted live music and other forms of entertainment since at least 1914. when she was known as LL Freeman. Theatre, according to the hotel group.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The California Clipper, 1002 N. California Ave., on February 21, 2022 before its reopening in Humboldt Park.

Improving the space, the Orbit Group crew restored the sign of the Clipper to resemble the mid-19th century clipper for which it was designed. He removed the boards from the front windows and replaced them with curtains, although the team does not plan to keep the curtains open during the service. The bar will always have that dark red glow, no matter what time of night.

“We tried to create a space that we all wanted to enter. We tried to bring it back to its original spirit and soul as much as possible, and we hope everyone can feel the spirit inside and feel the vibrancy,” said Jean Evans.

There is only one thing left to do, she said.

“Let’s have some fun, man. Let’s throw a party.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The California Clipper, 1002 N. California Ave., on February 21, 2022 before its reopening in Humboldt Park.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The California Clipper, 1002 N. California Ave., on February 21, 2022 before its reopening in Humboldt Park.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The California Clipper, 1002 N. California Ave., on February 21, 2022 before its reopening in Humboldt Park.

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