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Tap Rooted

We chat with Chris Ongkiko, owner of The Continental

Another guy who knows neighborhood bars: Chris Ongkiko, owner of The Continental (2801 W. Chicago Ave.) and the original Lava Lounge, who, at presstime, was gunning to open The Old Oak Tap (2109 W. Chicago Ave.), featuring West Town’s largest outdoor patio, before summer’s end.
First things first.

Why did you sell Lava Lounge? Lava was a great little dive, with the longest-running reggae and hip-hop nights in the city at the time, but the crowd started to change. I bought it when I was 25; now I’m 36. People get older and get married. When I closed it, I had The Continental in the works, which is a rock-’n'-roll bar; my wife is an indie music fan.

What about the vibe at Old Oak? Old Oak is more reflective of me. My wife and I built it from the ground up. It’s a good, sociable place, but there won’t be 50 plasmas. It isn’t a place for frat boys to catch the Cubs. The music will be more diverse, from rock ‘n’ roll to funk and soul.

Where did the name come from? I hate naming places. I don’t do themes; I don’t do concepts. I do bars. The bar tops and tabletops are made from reclaimed barn oak. Even though it’s new construction, we wanted it to feel old.

And the drinks? I drink High Life but I appreciate good beer. We’ll have a lot of Belgian beers, and we’re carrying Legends’ Heather Ale, which has been brewed in Scotland for 2,000 years.

Photography: Chris Guillen

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