Not to be confused with the current Lincoln Tavern, located in Bucktown at 1858 W. Wabansia, the “original” bar was owned by William “Billy Goat” Sianis and was located across from the Chicago Stadium. The Lincoln Tavern represents Billy Goat’s first foray into the barkeep sciences, the location of “Bill” Sianis’s transformation into “Billy Goat” Sianis, and the predecessor to the Billy Goat Tavern. Not much is known about the Lincoln Tavern, except for the recollection of Pete Callas below, who used to bounce on Billy Goat’s knee as a kid and who used to buy retsina wine at the grocery next door so that his grandfather, who suffered from a debilitating degree of arthritis, could be “pickled” in peace. Bob Craig’s article also explores how Billy Goat came into possession of the Lincoln Tavern and an early publicity stunt, predating the infamous Curse of the Billy Goat that has plagued the Chicago Cubs ever since. Like the Stadium, the Lincoln Tavern is now but a vague memory as whatever remains of it is now located underneath one of many United Center parking lots.
“I turned out to be the regular kid that Billy bounced on his knee till I got to be too big for that,.a rent a son that made him smile in the quiet hours before opening as he let me play with his stinky goat outside in back,…This is before Sam..and his Cheeseboigas,..This was a shot and a beer place,..that you had to step over drunks planted on the sidewalk from the night before,..and avoid skid row to get into,..beside the fact that the color of things were outnumbering,,and really made you feel like a minority. The place of the brown shoe , bow tie guy journalist, who called their copy in from a battery of phones Billy had installed in the back,..Their Flash guys with big square cameras would capture the dregs and stars,.. politicians and performers,..and bring the black and whites back to the tavern on their next trip to the Stadium,. covering the next event of notoriety.
“I have to say,.. that the memory of “Billy”,.is a bonded effort that was solidified by going to the shrine,.. every Sunday morning. before it was open to the public,. before Noon,… This was to score two bottles of retsina wine,.. drawn from wooden casks,. from the basement of grocery next-door to the right of the Tavern,..The wine was for pickling my grandfather all week and medicine as he would lay flat on his back almost all the time I could remember him with bad arthritis,..He was so old,.. he worked the railroads into Denver,.. with the Chinese..before the turn of the century
“The old man there in the grocery with a moustache, the size of a clincher softball,…would be surrounded with chicken wire ,.grates and bars, .pillboxed inside,..selling to the local public alone. It looked like a pawn shop in Beruit,..Pushing the milk and groceries through a cut in the fence after they would slide the money through,..This from a store that was stuck in the turn of the century in design. Story is, that he was in his late seventies then,.. he refused to give up his buisness, even though his sons begged him to leave,..and retire to enjoy Greece with the family,.. His sons had Million(s) and were THE guys with the biggest wholesale grocery supply company in town. He told them to “go to hell” this was his place,..with all their money they should go to Greece, and that he had to work for a living,..WOW ,..The King riots in 67′ took him out as I remember,.. This I’d like to find out more with research. The restaurant to the right of the Tavern was where my grandfather worked,..and when my father came out of the Army,. from the war just after the series,..he worked the register for his first job back in the states. They both saw Billy first thing in the morning for coffee,..nothing else,..then he’d leave a dollar when coffee was 10 cents.”
– Pete Callas (September 27, 2003); Pete is a longtime Chicagoan and artist now living in Albuquerque, New Mexico
“Saturday Night Live may have pushed the popularity of the Billy Goat, located at 430 N. Michigan Avenue, worldwide but it has been well known among Chicago’s residents for years. The original location on West Madison Street across from the old Chicago Stadium was opened in 1934 when Sianis’s uncle, William ‘Billygoat’ Sianis bought the Lincoln Tavern for $205. He paid with a check that bounced, but made enough money during his first weekend to repay the debt and the tavern has been finding its way into Chicago folklore ever since. During the 1944 Republican Convention Sianis put a up a sign in front of the tavern that read, ‘No Republicans Allowed.’ Soon, the news spread across the convention floor and by the end of the day the tavern was filled with Republicans demanding to be served. It was obvious that ‘Billygoat’ Sianis knew how to make a big splash.”– excerpt from Bob Craig’s article, “Arts and Flowers,” published on 219.com (May 31, 2000)