Officials toast Howard Street wine bar
The new Ward Eight Bar owners Anne Carlson and Cody Modeer help mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Alderman Ann Rainey cut the ribbon on Tuesday night at the cocktail lounge bar, at 629 Howard St. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 21, 2013 2:10PM
Resident Kristin Doll didn’t have to travel far to attend the ribbon-cutting for Ward Eight, the city’s rather audacious move to bring a cocktail bar to the formerly downtrodden Howard Street neighborhood.
She lives right around the corner at Custer Street and Brummel Avenue, not even a five-minute walk.
She and her husband used to frequent In Fine Spirits in the Andersonville neighborhood, where Anne Carlson and Cody Modeer worked before they opened Ward Eight.
“That was actually one of our favorite bars in Chicago,” Doll said. “My husband and I would look at each other and say if only something like this would open in our neighborhood.”
Flash forward, that day had arrived Tuesday night as a collection of city officials, residents, Howard Street business owners had a chance to clink glasses and sample the bar’s wines in a Happy Hour atmosphere on Howard that would have seemed far fetched not that long ago.
“Quite frankly this place overwhelms me,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th, who played a major role, prodding the city to invest in the project and others along the street. “It’s a success already and hasn’t even opened.”
The site, at 629 Howard, is one of three properties the city purchased, making use of Tax Increment Finance money as part of the effort to revitalize the area. Another site, a block away, is being prepared for rehab to house City Lit, a highly- regarded Chicago theater company moving to move to Evanston.
Tuesday’s night affair was only a dry run. The cocktail bar officially opened Wednesday.
The new establishment’s hours are Wednesday through Sunday, from 5 p.m. to midnight. In the Ward Eight project, the city authorized the city manager to execute a lease to own agreement with Carlson and Modeer, who conceived the idea for the cocktail bar while working at In Spirits. Construction started in summer/fall of 2012, which included major rehabilitation of the first floor to transform two commercial spaces into one single bar space.
Fixtures in use throughout the bar were reclaimed from church pews and other uses. Meanwhile, Carlson and Modeer rent from the city one of the two affordable apartments above the business.
Rainey credited the synergy that made the project possible, naming everyone from the mayor (Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, who was at the reception) to the contractors.
Owners of others Howard businesses were among those at the event.
MacDanne Edmond, owner of the Exclusive Merchandise Mart, a block west, said the bar should “everybody feel free have someone go local not really leave the area to have a great night.”
Gil Shamoun, operator of a luxury apartment building at 415 Howard building, a groundbreaking project of its own when it went up just west of the CTA tracks, also expressed high hopes.
“It’s just going to grow the neighborhood into more of a neighborhood and more supportive of local stores and places in the area.”
Ward Eight specializes in cocktails and wines and beers. The menu also includes sandwiches, such as the Fig and Farmers Cheese Sandwich comprised of house made fig preserves, Farmer’s Cheese, Argula, on Tuscan Bread which “is really, really delicious,’’ Carlson said.
The bar is aptly named. Ward Eight is the name of a classic cocktail that originated in Boston in the 1890s, “and we are obviously in the Eighth Ward of Evanston,’’ Carlson said.