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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Scot's owner reflects on the business that was
by Matt Simonette
2018-08-15

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After more than 20 years serving the Ravenswood neighborhood, Scot's Bar, 1829 W. Montrose Ave., has closed its doors.

The longtime gay watering hole served its final customers the week of Aug. 5. Owners Thom Scot and Bill Houlihan decided to retire, Scot said.

"We had the bar for 21 years, and I turned 67 this year," he added. "Twenty-one years was our goal. Now we've made 21 years—that's a long time for a bar that size to be as successful as it was. We were [just] ready to retire."

The bar reopened Aug. 8 under the new name Ravenswood Tap, with more than half of the original staff intact.

Scot said being out the bar business had brought up bittersweet feelings for him. He and Houlihan are planning a monthlong Italian vacation, then will be moving to Union Pier, Michigan.

"We had a party Aug. 5, and it was very successful," he noted. "We had a great turnout with a lot of friends and ex-employees from [over the course of] 21 years. It was nice sendoff."

Scot credited Houlihan with pulling the strings to bring their bar to fruition.

"I was working at Buck's part-time, and I just decided it was something I would like to make a career out of," he recalled. "So, Bill made it work for me. He researched the location. He found the bar when it was for sale. It was called Off the Line. He negotiated the purchase."

The neighborhood at the time was in a state of transition when the bar opened, Scot remembered, adding, "It's slowly gotten better over the years, and now it's a lovely neighborhood. We progressed with the neighbors, and the clientele became more and more mixed. The thing we loved was that we weren't Boystown and we weren't up north. We were a little pocket all by ourselves. We really didn't have a lot of competition."

One of his favorite memories—or, rather, several of his favorite memories—involved a lab monkey that, on several occasions, would stand vigil outside the bar at closing time, trapping the bartender inside.

"The bartender would sit outside, jump up and down, and not let Danny leave," Scot recalled. "Danny would throw an orange at it. The monkey would throw the orange back. Danny called the police, and the monkey would be gone. This went on for a couple of nights, and we finally found out that it was a lab monkey that belonged to a guy across the street who was taking it home at night. It was escaping through the bathroom window."

He added, "To make matters worse, Chuck Hyde from Sidetrack rented a monkey suit one night, and came in place of the real monkey."

Scot relished in customers and friends referring to his bar as "the Cheers of the Midwest" or "the little gay bar on the prairie."

He added, "There's something about our customers that was unique. They're still there. They were family. That makes me very happy."


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