Luke Stoioff—along with fellow Stone Lotus partners David Rekhson and Brandon Zisman—has been working on Bull & Bear (431 N. Wells St.), a high-end sports bar for Loopers and traders, for more that a year. Although the place isn’t slated to open until mid-October, the trio already has a slew of other projects in the pipeline, including a Las Vegas spinoff and two more nightlife concepts planned for Wicker Park and the Gold Coast. I caught up with Stoioff last night to get the scoop.
Tell me about the concept.
We wanted a place that caters to young professionals: a place where you can bring your girlfriend, for example. It’s a more refined environment for people with a taste for high-quality bar food.
Why River North?
It’s right across from the Loop, where traders and professionals can go [to watch games]. It’s a sports bar that caters to business professionals.
How does the name play into the concept?
There’s a 50-foot ticker displaying sports scores and stocks above the main bar, kind of like at Lucky Strike, accompanied by six 60-inch LCD flatscreens. There are 25 flatscreens total, and a high-def digital projector on an exposed brick wall showing games. And there’s a big morph of a bull head and a bear head made out of stone behind the back bar. No matter where you are [in the bar], you have a perfect vantage point of the games, the stocks, and the people. It’s 5,000 square feet with a big sidewalk patio that seats more than 100, but [the patio] probably won’t be open until next summer.
What do the food and drink menus look like?
As a nod to the stock market theme, we call our drink menu “liquid assets.” We’ll have specialty cocktails like the Nasdaquiri for $12—you know; the usual froufrou cocktails. Our food, by Chef David Blonsky (Quartino), is upscale bar food with a twist. Pigs in a blanket with kielbasa wrapped in phyllo dough, and little Philly cheesesteaks and mini bison burgers.
Tell us about those personal taps we keep hearing about.
The booths have taps built into them, rigged from our coolers downstairs. Two taps for every table: one domestic and one import. We’ll always have Bud Light since it sells the best, and the others will rotate weekly.
Stone Lotus had been open for a year before you decided to use the 4 a.m. liquor license. Will Bull & Bear be a late-night bar?
If I can get [a 4 a.m. license] at B&B, we’ll do the same. It’s about business longevity. In the nightlife biz, you must always create ways to reinvent yourself. [At Stone Lotus] we waited because we were new and hot as an early-night option. Then, when we started to age, we launched the late-night license and became a staple late-night place.
New Bar Alert
The Old Oak Tap—the new bi-level West Town bar from Chris and Susan Ongkiko, whose other spots have included, at one time or another, The Continental (2801 W. Chicago Ave.), the original Lava Lounge, and Darkroom—opens tonight, Thursday the 21st. Just in time for summer’s last gasp, a 1,500-square-foot patio, the largest in the area, seats 100-plus on Chicago Avenue. When the weather turns cooler, scenesters can look forward to getting cozy at the indoor communal tables, which seat up to 70. Want more details before you go? Look for my interview with Chris in the September issue of Chicago, on stands today.
Local son John Cusack hung out at Manor last Friday night, taking in a show hosted by the controversial rapper Akon . . . And for those children of the nineties—or those who just can’t turn down a C-list spectacle—Enclave hosts a birthday party for Backstreet Boy Howie Dorough tonight, Thursday the 21st. All band members are expected to be in attendance, and, we hear, maybe a few local athletes as well.