Jason Zdebski, who was a business partner in Shakers on Clark, 3160 N. Clark St., passed away suddenly sometime the weekend of Nov. 2-3. He was 43 and the cause of death is not yet known.
Zdebski was the "face of Shakers on Clark," according to the establishment's co-owner, Mark Friedlander. "He was a 'people-person.'"
In 2014, Zdebski and Friedlander took over the space from Jim Flint, when Flint decided to sell the previous business, 3160 Piano Bar & Cabaret, where Zdebski and Friedlander had both been bartenders. The duo said at the time that they intended for the establishment to be a Cheers-type bar for the Lake View neighborhood.
"We had been looking for a place together for the last two years," Friedlander said, adding that he and Zdebski thus leapt at the chance to take over when Flint announced his intention to sell. "We always sat in that room and said, 'God, can you imagine what we can do with this place?'"
Friedlander met Zdebski in 2005 when both were managers at the Michigan Avenue Bennigans. Friedlander said that Zdebski was almost his total opposite: "Jason always knew the right thing to say. I'm always afraid I'll say the wrong thing."
But Zdebski's extroversion meant he was in his element when dealing with Shakers on Clark's customers, or when the management would have to communicate with the bar's staff.
"He was a social butterfly of the neighborhood," Friedlander recalled. "Everybody knew Jason. He talked to everybody. Even if someone was trouble, he could carry a conversation with anybody. He was like that person you invite to the party because you know that he would make the party."
But Friedlander also emphasized how devoted Zdebski was to his family and friends: "He had a lot of 'best friends,' and they would do anything for him. That's the kind of guy that he was."
Shakers on Clark's patrons have been invited to write their thoughts on the bar's rear wall, which is covered in chalkboard paint.
"I know we're going to go on without him," Friedlander said. "It's just not going to be the same. We started this business to do it together."
"Jason was one of the most liked people anyone could have ever met," said Shakers on Clark staff on the bar's Facebook page. " … We can't imagine a world without Jason in it. He was such a big part of Shaker's, and will be greatly missed by the many who knew and loved him."
Funeral services for Zdebski will take place Friday, Nov. 8 at 11 a.m. at Thompson & Kuenster Funeral Home, 5570 W. 95th St. in Oak Lawn. A visitation will be held Thursday, Nov. 7 from 2-9 p.m.