The exterior of Public House
What’s behind Public House’s butcher-papered windows? Some 10,000 square feet of River North real estate. Get your own sneak peek at the bar’s New Year’s Eve party.

With their 10,000-square-foot watering hole Public House—actually, it’s less like a hole and more like a good-sized lake—on the cusp of bringing beer to the River North masses, the Bull & Bear owners and longtime friends David Rekhson, Brandon Zisman, and Luke Stoioff are planning to give nearby spots (Hub 51, Rockit) a run for their money.

The bar is set to open January 13th at 400 North State Street, following a preview party on New Year’s Eve, but I scored a private tour yesterday afternoon. As welders threw sparks and workers peeled plastic off of flat-screens, I roamed the expansive, almost-finished space and jotted a few notes about what kinds of occasions could bring The Chaser back for a drinking test-drive (and my notes had to be good, since management wouldn’t let me take pictures inside):

When visitors are in town. The main bar, a huge island in the middle of the east room, will have a perfectly nostalgic view of the iconic Chicago Theatre sign, just down State Street. Another plus for those unaccustomed to the downtown crush? All of the cash registers at this bar and the one in the west room face outward, so would-be drinkers shouldn’t get stuck trying to communicate their orders to a bartender’s back.

The owners of Public House: David Rekhson, Brandon Zisman, and Luke Stoioff
The Public faces: David Rekhson, Brandon Zisman, and Luke Stoioff

When I’m being forced to participate in March Madness. Sports fans likely will love Public House as a game-watching spot: TVs are plentiful, so you won’t miss a point while ordering your beer. Or reserve a booth with a built-in tap, and you can just reach over and pour your own.

When I need a cold one. And I’m not talking beer. The vodka in the liquor table-taps will pour at zero degrees. No ice, baby.

When I need a very specific one. So far, there are 101 beers on Public House’s menu, including 25 on tap, and Goose Island will test new brews here before releasing them on the market.

When I need a smok(er). Brisket, ribs, and whole chickens will score prime grill estate on the kitchen’s smoker—a feature that no doubt will permeate patrons’ hair with that come-hither barbecue aroma.

When a band I like is playing the House of Blues. I’m told a partnership is in the works that would bring bands to Public House postconcert. Whether the musicians end up playing a song or just rubbing elbows remains to be seen, but the bar’s concert-quality sound system bodes well for impromptu sets.

A limited number of $145 tickets to Public House’s open-bar New Year’s Eve bash remain. But if, like me, you find it utterly insane to leave the house on that particular night, I’ll see you at the bar in early 2011.