April 22nd, 2019 3:24 PM
Updated: Apr. 22nd, 2019 5:30 PM
Brewery co-owner Shawn Stevens, stands in one of the cooler rooms next to tanks of beer on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, at the new One Lake Brewing on Lake Street at the corner of Austin Boulevard in Oak Park, Ill. | ALEXA ROGALS/Staff Photographer
It's been years in the making, but the new brewpub at the corner of Lake Street and Austin Boulevard – the name of the joint is One Lake – is almost ready to open.
During a recent tour with co-owners Jason Alfonsi and Shawn Stevens, construction teams were hard at work putting the final touches on the two-story (plus rooftop deck) brewpub that was originally built as a bank in 1920.
The building has gone through several iterations – a funeral home, medical offices, a credit card processing office – since the bank closed as the Great Depression hit in 1929. But none have attracted the kind of attention the brewpub is generating.
Stevens said neighbors have been asking for months about when it will open. He and Alfonsi are still reluctant to give an exact date, but they're willing to offer up "a month or so."
The place is still covered with construction dust, but the bar is complete, and the space is emerging as a cozy and modern restaurant with seating on the ground floor, second floor and rooftop deck with a partial view of downtown Chicago.
The brewpub will not only offer about a dozen One Lake Brewing-brewed beers, but it also will feature a complete menu with typical bar fare – burgers and wings – as well as a fairly adventurous dinner menu. One Lake Brewing won't be bottling beer, but the pub will offer growlers and crowlers, the former being bottled beer and the latter being canned, both available on site.
Most notable about the dining room, perhaps, is the two-story chandelier made of beer bottles.
While it's not uncommon for residents to wonder how long it will be before any business opens, One Lake Brewing is under the additional pressure to open due to tax breaks the Village of Oak Park awarded the venture in 2016.
That deal from the village included a $50,000 construction grant and multi-year, tiered sales tax rebate of future sales taxes that could reach $385,700 over seven years.
The gut-rehab project faced unknown hurdles during construction, including the discovery of more than a foot of concrete in the basement. Stephens suggested the thick foundation might have been an attempt to prevent break-ins at the bank – back in those days the idea of tunneling in to break into a vault was not unheard of.
The new brewpub is just one of many commercial developments that have popped up along the stretch of Lake Street between Austin Boulevard and Oak Park Avenue over the last several years. Pete's Fresh Market, School of Rock, the park district's gymnastics center and the Oak Park River Forest Museum have brought new life to the commercial corridor.
The brewpub is different from those other businesses in its positioning between Oak Park and the Austin neighborhood and its ability to attract residents from both areas.
Stevens said it's not necessarily their intention to be a bridge between Austin and Oak Park but added that he thinks it will bring together those in both communities.
The rehab has been an adventure and uncovered hidden treasures, according to Alfonsi. As an example, he showed off the approximately 100-year-old beer bottle found in the basement. The bottle is now displayed in a glass and wooden case at the bar.
Alfonsi said Oak Park is quickly becoming a beer-lover's destination with Kinslahger on Roosevelt Road, Oak Park Brewing on Oak Park Avenue and Wild Onion Tied House on South Boulevard.
"We're all friends (with the brewers at Kinslahger)," Alfonsi said. "Shawn and I, after work, go to Kinslahger and talk with (owners) Steve (Loranz) and Keith (Huizinga)."
He said they plan to carry the local brewer's beer on tap.
* This story was updated to correct inaccuracies identifying Alfonsi and Sevens.
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