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A Late Night on Roosevelt Road

Cicero's Days Gone Bye

At one time Cicero’s Roosevelt Road (12th Street) was packed with late night drinking establishments. These bars were meant to cater to the different shifts that worked in the local industrial area’s but they quickly began to be frequented by the late night revelers of the neighborhood.

Errico's Club 30 Errico's Club 30 is the last of the old late night bars in Cicero but it now closes at 2:00 AM.

Not too long ago, I was on Roosevelt Road late on a Friday night. Don’t judge. But what struck me was how deserted the street has become. And I couldn’t help but remember how it thrived years ago. None of the late night bars there even started to get their customer base until 2 am. And it didn’t close until 6 am; not that closing stopped some of the bars from keeping the party rolling. Like I said, don’t judge. I realize there’s a pretty big case to be made for attending AA meetings when you’re after hours at the after hours bar, but you really haven’t experienced the night life of Roosevelt Road until you’ve left the darkened bar and been blinded by the surprise of bright sunlight.

Whether you were coming from downtown or from any neighborhood bar in Cicero or Berwyn as a starting point, getting to Roosevelt you’d instantly see the pandemonium of all the cars pulling in and out. This was back in the day where cops couldn’t even spell DUI. People walked from bar to bar or to the Steak and Egger on Central. They’d be milling around the front doors of places just to get some fresh air. Some would be waiting to get in or getting through the throng of people saying goodbye because, let’s face it, everyone knew everyone. That was the thing. It was like going to the summer carnival, you’d run into people you knew from pretty much every stage of your life.

Of course, that wasn’t all wine and roses either. Some bad shit happened around those joints but the good times far outweighed the bad – for me, anyway. Every bar had its own feel and most of the people who frequented Roosevelt Road back in the day had their personal favorite. I would normally decide by what kind of mood I was in, who I was with, or where I was coming from. Sometimes I’d hit a couple of them, all of them, and sometimes I’d just get to one place and camp out for the rest of the night. It also depended on who I brought with me or who I ran into there.

If I wanted to just mellow out or eat something, the place to go was The Villa. The original name was The Gay Villa, but that was way back when gay meant happy. The Villa was on Roosevelt and 61st Court. It was the go to spot for a lot of the bartenders and waitresses in the area to unwind after they got off work. So basically the place started picking up steam when most normal establishments were closing down. They kept a tight handle on the place and didn’t allow a lot of the nonsense that went on at the other late night joints. They kept out a lot of the riff raff for a more laid back environment… so really the choice was whether you wanted to relax or you’d rather be riff raff that night. When most people think about The Villa, they remember the food. I honestly couldn’t tell you if the food was any good or not because I never ate it sober. And any pizza or beef you get at 4 am is the best damn thing you ever ate.

About a half block west of The Villa was the original Midnight Hour, which later moved to the 5700 block of Roosevelt. I only went in the first Midnight Hour a couple of times and didn’t spend much time there. I did, however, go to the Hour after they moved quite a bit, but I’ll work my way down Roosevelt and get back to the second location later.

When you went east of Austin, you had four bars that were open until 6 am. The first you would get to was Kelly’s which was on the 5800 block of Roosevelt (just west of the corner of 58th Ave). If you were never in Kelly’s, the best I can say is to put the term “sketchy bar” into your head – you’ve probably got it nailed. What was redeeming about the place was that they did have a pool table, but good luck getting on it after 3 am. If you did get on the table, you had a pretty good chance of losing your money. Kelly’s was a rare stop for me. The crowd there wasn’t the same as the rest of Roosevelt.

Next door to that or a couple of doors over – I really don’t remember exactly, was The Spot Lounge which was billed as a gentlemen’s club. Now, let’s just call a spade a spade, it was a whorehouse. Pure and simple… well, not really pure. Anyway, when people talk about the Chicago Outfit in Cicero, this was a prime example of why they loved the town. I mean, come on, they had about a half dozen of these joints running in town for years. This one had a full liquor bar, which was rare for those places, but the prices for booze were beyond steep. If I remember correctly, it was like 5 bucks for a Miller Lite and, of course, and then the girls would hit you up for a drink. Needless to say, this was not a normal stop off for anyone… This place was mostly people going there for one reason and then getting the hell out. Sometimes some of the guys would stop by the place because the bartenders and doormen were regulars at the other bars. Back in the day, bar people knew how to return patronage. And then, it was kind of fun to watch the broads there hustle the marks who made their way in there.

The next block down, on the east side of 58th Avenue, you had the Midnight Hour (after they moved). The Hour didn’t even bother to open until at least 8 pm and they catered strictly to the late night crowd. It was also like the friggin wild, wild west in the place because they would get people from all over the city so the crowds just didn’t always mesh and no matter what crowd you were with, you felt like the other one was invading YOUR space. They used to advertise on the radio and had a dance floor with a DJ and a beer garden on the second floor. You would get patted down when you walked in and they had metal detector wands to make sure they didn’t miss anything. The thing with the Midnight Hour is that it was fun and they had some good music, plus it was still predominantly patronized by people from the neighborhood. I normally liked the bar on the first floor, though I was no fan of the cameras in the bathroom. But I only used the bathroom to piss, not do blow, so what did it really matter?

Normally, if I was in this area, I would probably end up at Errico’s (actually named Errico’s Club 30). A lot of people called it Enrico’s and some people would call it Uncle Jimmy’s Place because the owner’s name was Jimmy and a lot of guys called him Uncle Jimmy, whether he was related or not. This was my last stop of the night. The problem was that it was quite possible that I would stay for a day or two. Like I said, sometimes you get on a good roll and you just have to go with it. Errico’s was the quintessential dive bar and people were there for two reasons – to drink and when they were done drinking, to drink some more.

Out of all of the places I mentioned in this article, Errico’s is the only one that still exists. All of the other bars closed when the late night liquor licenses were taken away by the town. Roosevelt is now basically desolate late at night. Sometimes you see people walking around out there, but it’s more like a scene from a zombie movie than the festive scenes of years gone by.

 

Photo taken from Errico’s Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/erricos.club

5 Comments on A Late Night on Roosevelt Road

  1. Good article. I remember going to a bar called Comfy’s Tap or something close to that. Not much of a place. Basically just a bar were you drank. The guy who owned it and ran it, had very thick glasses and could barely see. But booze was cheep back then, 50 cents for a short beer and 25 cents for a shot so no one cared.

    Yes, those friendly corner bars no longer exist where everyone knows your name. Kind of sad.

  2. Does anyone remember Ray Conniff who owned Rays Comfy tap. East of Austin on Rosevelt Rd?

  3. Rays Comfy tap. Was that the one between the milk store and Fagers hardware just west of 59th Ave? This article needs to go back further into the 50’s and beyond, Hell I remember when Enrico’s was Martins. I got a few stores to tell about that place.

  4. Joe Cool Rodriguez // March 24, 2017 at 12:18 pm // Reply

    I Was the DJ A THE MIDNIGHT HOUR ON THE 2nd Floor ! My name is Joe Cool Rodriguez and I can tell you this ! I was the DJ at the Fire Alarm and when it closed I was asked to be the DJ at the new MIDNIGHT HOUR and took the job. I will say that I’ve pretty much played at every bar in the CICERO/BERWYN AREA and NOT ONE can come close to the MIDNIGHT HOUR! IN THE 9Os that was the club to be at and when I say anything went IT DID! YOU WILL NEVER I MEAN NEVER SEE A CLUB LIKE THAT AGAIN!

  5. Hit almost every bar from Central to Harlem Ave

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