What can I say about Sovereign? Aside from being one of the more difficult bars to spell in Chicago, Sovereign serves up some Old School for neighborhood folks, transients and urban hipsters alike in the far north Edgewater neighborhood. While the bar lies close in proximity to such Loyola University drinking institutions as Hamilton’s and the Pumping Company, Sovereign Liquors is instead a world away when it comes to atmosphere, though it’s starting to change. It’s the type of place where you can still buy a six-pack at the counter or drink them individually across from it, perhaps with a go at the pokie thrown in for good measure. That being said, Sovereign is one of the cleanest dives in town.
Not to be confused with nearby Sovereign Apartments on Granville or the Sovereign Home nursing facility on Kenmore, the bar known as Sovereign Liquors can be found near the corner of Granville and Broadway, next door to Granville Pictures (picture framing). Sovereign is also located just up the street from Ole St. Andrew’s Inn and The Bubble. The Sovereign can be easily spotted with its bright Old Style sign (with its promise of “COLD BEER”) and an old-fashioned marquis advertising the bar’s name. “Sovereign” is also written in a hodge-podge of lettering upon the tavern’s dark facade, under two smallish windows cluttered with neon beer signs.
Once you pass through the plate-glass front door, you’ll find a one-room bar. On your immediate left is a linoleum-topped counter where six-packs are sold at any time of night even though Sovereign is not a liquor store. The bar is actually one of the few establishments remaining in the city that can serve as a tavern and sell package goods; a sovereign bar indeed considering that new bars can’t even open without a kitchen these days thanks to Hizzoner. The actual bar, of the long wooden variety, runs along the southern wall immediately west of the counter and bows out at the end to accommodate a few more inebriates. Here, you can grab one of several black, high-backed vinyl barstools and become entranced by the neon Budweiser sign hanging over the mirrored bar back. Above this is the bar’s name along with, “CORDIALS, WINE, WHISKIES,” written in raised gold stenciled lettering. I can’t imagine anyone ordering a cordial in this joint, but you “can” find $2 Old Style and Pabst served up in the finest aluminum dispensers—let it be noted that Sovereign did this well before it was popular further south in Lakeview, Lincoln Park and Wicker Park.
Across from the aforementioned bar, where sobriety is as uncommon as the truth spoken by Dick Cheney, are three cocktail tables and black barstools along the north wall. Sovereign’s interior decor consists of green carpeting, off-white stucco walls (ala Farragut’s in nearby Andersonville), green painted walls chock-a-block with brewery mirrors, and a few bare lightbulbs surrounded by metal break retardant hanging from a white ceiling. Strangely, all of this provides a surprisingly warm atmosphere—warm that is until one of the Sovereign regulars falls off his barstool while playing at one of the two video poker machines at the end of the bar. If you need cigarettes, a machine can be found halfway down the north wall. Matches are provided gratis above it and the blue-painted, one-seater, Heineken sponsored john can be found just to its left. If conversation’s not your bag, there’s a blue-felted pool table before you hit the back wall and its promise of potato chips (available from the rack). A cooler filled with beer and Snapple can be found before a dark passage leading to the back, filled hazardously with beer in boxes and ladders.
The crowd at Sovereign once consisted primarily of older neighborhood types that really don’t have anything better to do, but hipsters from nearby Loyola University have been increasingly calling Sovereign home. Which crowd is preferable? You make the call…
“I went there this past weekend. It is really turning into a ‘hipster bar’ similar to the old Lakeview Lounge (albeit with more college students). It was packed on a Saturday with a very friendly crowd–the type that seem to go there often. Not a place w/o regulars as it was when you first wrote your post. Perhaps the upscale-ification of Uptown is pushing the Northside hipsters north.”– K.N. (September 20, 2006)
Overall, Sovereign’s is as good a place as any in this part of town, particularly if you’re looking for a bit of old-school or just need a sixer to tide you over until your next bout of DTs. It’s a quiet, neighborhood-type place with an increasingly metrosexual allure. The place is clean, is looked after quite well, and was even voted Best Bar Name by New City Chicago in 2001, so stop by for a Pabst if you’re in the area and feeling somewhat adventurous.