Peter D’Agostino, at home behind the bar
A lesson for any would-be bar owner: Never announce an opening date. Once you have every license in hand and all inspections have been squared away and your contractors have packed up their tools for the very last time, just go ahead and open. Then tell everyone you’ve done so.
Even veterans can get it wrong. After announcing he would unveil Stereo (5616 W. Diversey Ave.)—the latest incarnation of his 45-year-old Belmont-Cragin nightclub, known at various points as Jedynka and 123 Disco—on April 23rd, Peter D’Agostino now plans to welcome back his Eastern European clientele, alongside a “global” group of newcomers, within a few weeks. I stopped by for a preopening tour on Tuesday and snapped the first photos of the transformed space, then sat down on a just-unwrapped barstool for an update from the wry nightlife warrior himself.
The Chaser: So, really, when are you opening? Or should I just wait for the text? [Interested parties can register their cell number via the club’s website to receive up-to-the-minute news.]
Peter D’Agostino: That’s a good question.
TC: Whose idea was the name Stereo?
PA: It was called Jedynka for 18 years because we were catering to a mostly Polish crowd. We still expect to cater to that community, but we’d like to see all different groups from the neighborhood: Italians, Czechs, Russians, Greeks. So our resident DJ and marketing guy, Kuba Falinski, came up with a name that would appeal to everyone.
TC: Your new interior is pretty slick. What kind of look did you tell your designers you wanted?
PA: I told them, “I leave it up to you.” All I said was that I wanted a warmer feel, and the lighting should be cool but dark. The interior is totally new, but the layout is the same because it’s great.
TC: Will you have a dress code?
PA: Yes. We don’t really care for baggies [loose jeans], gym shoes, or hats. Nighttime chic.
A gleaming cash register stands at the ready
TC: I have to tell you, I find a lot of downtown dance clubs torturous. But this place seems like it might be different.
Vince D’Agostino [Peter’s son, piping up]: What I notice is, you go to a lot of clubs, and there’s a bunch of punks out there flinging themselves around. Here, people are actually dancing. It’s a mature nightclub crowd. Professional dancers come and dance out there by themselves for two hours before the crowd even gets here.
TC: What about a VIP room?
PA: Now, if we could make that room the whole bar, OK. If you call something VIP, what does that consist of? I say to Vince, “We gotta give these rooms some other names.” There’s no VIP room in this place. Everybody’s VIP.
TC: You say you’re still here every night. Think you’ll ever turn the management over to Vince?
PA: Ha! I’ve been trying to turn it over since ’66. [Crosses himself.] But I’m still here, at least physically. I don’t know about mentally.
TC: You still love it?
PA: It’s my life. I live and die for this place.