Everyone who’s ever been to Second Story (157 E. Ohio St.; 312-923-9536) has a Second Story story. The spot—a gay dive just “75 steps from Michigan Avenue,” as its matchbooks point out, and one of Chicago magazine’s 100 Best Bars—just seems to engender a certain sort of late-night bedlam. I visited the bar this past weekend for some reporting research, and though I didn’t stick around late enough to make a truly epic night of it, some drinkers in the crowd had reached a noteworthy level of inebriation by a relatively early hour.
It got me thinking about the second-to-last time I was there, in late summer 2008. That night made for a different sort of Second Story story—a fateful episode whose consequences linger still. The ensuing drama, which played out over the subsequent six months or so, wasn’t pretty, but it would make excellent soap material for the LOGO network.
The long and short of it: Some friends and I had been to a fancy, open-bar event at the MCA. Later we went to another party in the space that’s now Blue Frog 22. Then we got some onion rings (and more drinks) at the now-shuttered Boston Blackie’s. Finally someone suggested we check out Second Story, a place he described as a “bear bar” around the corner, on Ohio Street.
Among our group was a person we’ll call Friend Number 1 and another person, Friend Number 2. Friend Number 1’s long-lost ex-boyfriend, visiting from Nashville, was also in the house. Now, the thing about Second Story is that it’s on the second story. There’s a flight of dingy, carpeted stairs one must ascend to enter the bar, and there’s a surveillance camera that keeps track of the stairwell’s comings and goings. Sometimes that footage is shown live on a screen visible to all of the bar’s patrons. On this particular night, when Friend Number 1’s ex absconded to the stairwell for a little “alone time” with Friend Number 2, waddaya know, we were all looking on.
“I believe you, et al, watched Wes and I do the two-step up and down the stairs, mere moments away from a first kiss that set the tone for the rest of the year,” Friend Number 2 recalls now.
The Chaser’s lesson of the day: Think twice before stealing a not-so-secret smooch in a stairwell, even if you know for sure your hi-jinks aren’t being broadcast live. Just like everybody has a story about Second Story, everybody knows everybody in this deceptively small town.