Restaurant, music venue planned for downtown Evanston
Evanston- John Tasiopoulos, shows off the cool spaces now ready for the new restaurant and concert hall in downtown Evanston. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 30, 2012 6:16AM
EVANSTON — John Tasiopoulos, the owner of The Old Neighborhood Grill on Central Street, said he moved forward on his newest venture, 27 Live, based on what he was hearing from some customers.
“A good friend of mine came in one night and said, “there’s just no place to play anymore. He’s a musician,” related Tasiopoulos, standing in his new restaurant, the whine of power saws in the background. “I said, ‘Let’s open a club, man.’ So one thing led to another and here we are now, we’re ready to go.”
So was the beginning, with apologies to Trader Joe’s, of what might turn out to be Evanston’s boldest economic development venture of the year.
Tasiopoulos is about three weeks away from completing the renovation of the 14,000-square-foot space that once housed two restaurants, Carmen’s Pizzeria and Asado Grill, at 1012-14 Church St.
His new place 27 Live — named after the rock icons who died at that age — features a main downstairs room with a raised platform for performers, dance floor, bar and a seating area.
Tasiopoulos, 49, a rock music enthusiast, said he would like to bring in music groups which play “the stuff I grew up with in the 70s and 80s, the classic rock and roll stuff.
“We’re going to play a lot of the new bands coming up,’’ he said. “There are a lot of really cool new bands coming up so we want to hear them. How cool would it be if five years from now I said today’s version of The Smashing Pumpkins played at my place? So that kind of stuff excites the heck out of me.”
The new venue has been compared most to SPACE, the pioneering music venue on Chicago Avenue. Some friends and guests of Tasiopoulos at a sneak preview already detected a difference.
“It’s a totally different vibe here than SPACE,” said Susan Fitzgerald, leaving the party Wednesday night. “This is definitely more of a rock and roll vibe, (with) dancing.”
“SPACE is great,” she added, “but we need more than one place.”
Tasiopoulos, 49, a resident of Wilmette, said his wife, Theresa, was instrumental in prodding him to move forward on his new venture. Tasiopoulos had run a restaurant at Howard and Clark streets in his early 20s.
“That’s where I caught my bug for the hospitality business,’’ he said. He sold the business to go back to school, get a degree, and then eventually hooked up with a major corporation, moving up the ladder and running the company’s personnel division.
“It wasn’t my personality. So after 20 years in the corporate world I came back to my roots,” he said, first starting The Old Neighborhood Grill.
At 27 Live, he’s had to set aside talk “from a lot of people ‘that Evanston is where the party goes to die,” he said.
“I know a lot of customers in Evanston, the customers in my grill – they know how to let their hair loose and have a good time,” he said. “So that’s what we’re going to do.”