Recently replacing Jerry’s on Lincoln, the Halligan Bar is the latest newcomer to this crowded Lincoln Park corridor where sobriety is hard to find. Halligan has the nice feel of a neighborhood bar amongst sports bars and meat markets. In its former life, Jerry’s was a place where any patron was the bartender’s best friend because there usually was no one else in there. Hopefully, Halligan will have a brighter future.
Halligan is one of those classic Lincoln Avenue, triangular-shaped bars. As you walk in, the bar with its high-backed, wooden chairs and mirrored backdrop is on your right and an elevated seating area enclosed by a wooden railing is on your left, which is perfect to sit in and enjoy the breeze in summer while you watch a throng of people pass by. The whole room is chock-a-bloc with firefighter memorabilia. Such tchotchkes include vintage photos of yesteryear Chicago, fire-alarm boxes, hoses, coats, nozzles, an enormous Halligan / Harp mirrored sign on the east wall, a plethora of “My Goodness, My Guinness” posters, an axe, and a Halligan above the bar (read on to find out what a Halligan is). If there’s nothing of interest on any of the several TVs or the big screen, head to the back and have a game of cricket on thee regulation dartboard in the back, which is located on your way to the bathrooms through a urination portal in the west wall. If the place gets jammed, like it usually is on most weekends, try heading downstairs to their recently opened basement area.
The four-story, red-brick building housing Halligan has been a bar for over 100 years. Joining such places as the Green Mill, Jake’s Pub and John Barleycorn’s (located kitty-corner to Halligan), the building has a connection to a gangster past in that Bugs Moran ran it as a speakeasy during Prohibition. Following that, the bar was owned for four decades by an old German saloon keeper named John Weiss. A Chicago Bar Project fan describes the joint like this:
“In the 60’s this was indeed John Weiss’ saloon. A dingy, run-down, very plain bar. We’d go there for dirt-cheap pitchers of dark beer and shots of Jägermeister. John Weiss was an enormous, obese, lumbering German character who was either courtesy-impaired or language-impaired or both. If you were sitting at a table and he wanted to get by, he would simply say ‘You haff to move.’ By the same token, he’d often lumber over to the table with the bottle of Jägermeister and an extra shot glass and simply say ‘You have to drink ziss’ and buy a round of shots for everyone as well as have one himself. Then he’d lumber off without an additional word. John Weiss sold the place to a couple guys who renamed it ‘Katzenjammer Kids’ or ‘Katzenjammers’. They seemed perpetually hung over and maintained the same dingy, run-down look of the place, if not contributing to it even more.”<-Tony E. (October 14, 2003)
After John Weiss’ Saloon and Katzenjammer’s, the bar was transformed into Jerry’s on Lincoln in 1982. Jerry’s was also once known specifically as “Jerry’s Video Night Club” because of former owner Jerry Majil’s fascination with the old Gold Coast haunt Faces, and then was transformed into Halligan Bar in 2001. Now, the establishment is frequented by a mix of DePaul students and young Lincoln Parkers who come for cheap cocktails, firefighters like at Emmit’s Pub to hang with their own, and older regulars looking for a shot and a beer – all of whom come to leer at the sexy bartendresses who have been known to enjoy a few themselves as they take their time to fix your drink. Just order a brewsky from their decent but uninspired tap selection. In the Fall, many come to cheer on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame just as they do at any other bar in Chicago with an Irish name as U2 plays in the background. Halligan has recently started to offer microwaved mini pizzas, so have one to try and compensate for the sea of alcohol you imbibe.
In addition to being a great place to enjoy a Guinness, the Halligan Bar is a play on words. According to the Riverhead Fire Department, the “Halligan” is used by firefighters. “This tool was designed in the 1940’s by Hugh Halligan, who retired a First Deputy Fire Commissioner in the FDNY. The ‘Halligan’ is a tool that is used for multiple operations, it has been dubbed ‘the universal key.’ This tool, comprised of an adz, pick and fork made from a single piece of forged steel, along with an Ax, make up what is now known as a firefighter’s set of ‘Irons’. Prior to the invention of the ‘Halligan’ tool, firefighters carried what is known as a ‘claw tool’ and a ‘Kelly Tool’ along with a striking tool, this was where the term ‘Irons’ originated. Hugh Halligan took the two tools and combined them into one so you now carry less tools. The first company to get, and name, a ‘Halligan’ tool was FDNY Ladder Company 47 (who coincidentally were first due to Halligan’s home in Parkchester, NY).”
While the pool table and Golden Tee remain, the green awnings and lame atmosphere have been replaced, Halligan retains the laid-back, neighborhood bar feel of Jerry’s and adds style and a pulse thanks to owners and Chicago firefighters Scott McCorkle and Rob Arnoldt. Halligan a great place to spend a lazy summer afternoon, argue whether .mp3 players record in stereo, have a pint after work, or for pre-gaming on the weekend. For more information, check out the Halligan Bar website. Cheers.
“A bar that aspires beyond your corner tavern. Track lighting and tin ceiling straight out of Architectural Digest—like the neighboring condos.”– Jerry’s on Lincoln review in The Official Chicago Bar Guide (1994)
…and in with the new!
Photographs taken by Carla G. Surratt of Picturing Chicago