Joann Piano Bar

751 N. Clark St. (800N, 100W) Chicago, IL 60610 R.I.P. 1995 (est.)

“For 25 years Louis Jacobone’s been playing the paino at this friendly place. Patrons are encouraged to grab the ancient songbooks and sing along. Sorta Sleazy in only the best sense.” (rated 3 out of 4 mugs)

-Official Chicago Bar Guide (1994)

Now Celtic Crossings, Joann Piano Bar featuring owner and pianist Louis Jacobone, once entertained a loyal crowd of regulars for over two decades. Yours truly never had the chance to frequent this colorful establishment that has gone the way of Goldstar Sardine Bar, so please e-mail me if you have any stories you’d like to share. In the meantime, if you’re up for a good piano bar, I recommend the Redhead Piano Bar, Zebra Lounge and Underground Wonder Bar.

~ Have a good story relating to this bar? Email us. ~

– written by Sean Parnell

[back to the Chicago Bar Project]

“Though he never learned to read music, Mr. Jacobone entertained Chicagoans and out-of-towners for decades with his piano playing. At a succession of nightspots, most famously Joann’s Piano Bar on the Near North Side, he played old standards, show tunes — even songs he didn’t know, as long as a patron could hum the melody.

“People usually did more than hum.

“‘He loved for people to sing along, no matter how bad you were,’ said son-in-law Lee Pelty. Mr. Jacobone’s followers ranged ‘from the very wealthy to very well-known to the plebeian. The one thing they had in common was they liked to sing,’ Pelty said.

“Mr. Jacobone, who co-owned and co-managed Joann’s for 30 years, died Monday in Lincoln Park at age 91. The cause was pneumonia, said his daughter, Barbara Pelty.

“In 1969, he and Joann Greakas opened Joann’s at Erie and State. Though it would later move twice, ending up at 751 N. Clark, the decor and mood remained consistent: bright and gaudy, with red barstools, red velvet wallpaper, and paintings of nudes done by Mr. Jacobone’s ex-wife.

“‘It was sort of bordello-looking — intentionally so,’ Lee Pelty said.

“Presiding over it all was Mr. Jacobone, usually wearing a fisherman’s cap and a vest, taking requests and urging people to sing with him. Over the years, the clientele included visiting movie stars like Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve. Christopher Walken was a patron, as was Oprah Winfrey, Lee Pelty said.

“When Mr. Jacobone was not at the piano, he was often behind the bar, serving drinks to patrons, despite his lack of bartending skills. He had no idea how to make mixed drinks. If a customer ordered one, he would pour them a shot and have one himself. ‘He had an immense constitution,’ Lee Pelty said.”

– excerpt from, “Nightclub owner known for sing-alongs: Near N. Side spot featured,” by Eric Herman in the Chicago Sun-Times (February 17, 2006)