Harper Court update: Park Tavern falls through, Harper Theater and others seek liquor license

Staff Writer

One restaurant that had been expected to open in Harper Court fell through leaving a gap in the retail block in the development.

Park Tavern, an upscale sports bar that had leased 5,000 square feet of space in Harper Court, nixed its plans to open its doors.

Jim Hennesy, associate vice president for Commercial Real Estate for the University of Chicago, said it is considering dividing the space into two or three smaller retail areas.

Hennessey said the new retailers are likely to be soft goods, such as clothing or housewares.

“If we did another restaurant it would have to be another chef-driven destination,” Hennessey said. Any more restaurants would need to be higher-end places like A10, 1462 E. 53rd St., as opposed to a fast, casual restaurant like Chipotle or Five Guys.

Three businesses that will open in Harper Court, as well as the Harper Theater, are looking to obtain liquor licenses for their businesses.

Native Foods, 1518 E. Harper Ct., has requested a liquor license that will allow beer and liquor sales incidental with its vegan fare. Native Foods expects to begin serving patrons in its 54-seat restaurant, with another 15 seats on its patio, on March 11.

Native Foods expects liquor to account for only 1 to 2 percent of its overall sales.
Porkchop, 1516 E. Harper Ct., will request a liquor license that will allow for a full bar open during its business hours, which include breakfast through evening. Porkchop expects liquor to account for one-third of its sales. Porkchop will offer southern-style barbeque. It plans to offer 22 draught beers, all local to the Chicago area, as well as wine and spirits.

Jamaican restaurant Ja’Grill, 1510 E. Harper Ct., is also requesting a liquor license that would allow it to have a full bar. The restaurant will have 80 indoor seats and expects 30 percent of its sales to come from liquor.

“People really enjoy our food, but the best way to do it is with a Red Stripe or a rum punch,” owner Tony Coates said.

Tony Fox, owner of the Harper Theater, 5238 S. Harper Ave., is also seeking a liquor license that will allow for a full bar in the movie house.

Fox said the theater’s liquor license would allow it to stay competitive with alcohol sales offered at other theaters, including The New 400, the Harper’s sister theater in Rogers Park, which is also owned by Fox.

Hennessey also suggested that fashion-clothing retailer Akira, 1539 E. 53rd St., has exceeded its own sales expectations and may look to expand to include a shoe store in another retail space nearby.

Promontory, the music venue and restaurant located at the back of the Akira building is now expecting to open in April, Hennessey said.