The answers are: 1) Yes, 2) a tiki bar in the basement, and 3) Bub City. The questions are: 1) Surely Paul McGee isn’t going to the Melmans’ country and western concept at 435 N. Clark Street, is he?, 2) Where’s he going to be serving exactly?, and 3) Did they ever come up with a name for that place, preferably one that rhymes with Hub 51 and Sub 51? You may remember the late 80s/early 90s Lettuce Entertain You concept Bub City, located somewhere in that jumble of restaurants now opposite the Apple Store at North & Clybourn. It was a Southern-fried last gasp of the 80s’ Cajun craze, filled with the Debevics-ish wacky signage and antique shop bric-a-brac that was Lettuce’s style then, and some people seem to remember it fondly. Two people in particular apparently loved it— RJ and Jarrod Melman, who would have run around it as the boss’s rugrats back in the day. Now they’re the bosses, and so they plan on resurrecting the name for their undoubtedly sleeker and chicer downtown country and western bar.
The McGee angle was the real mystery here that has finally been solved. No one thought it made sense to stick him at a concession stand for a live music venue, basically— but no one knew of any other project he would be attached to, either. So it makes perfect sense that he’s both part of the country and western concept, and separate from it. The country and western place— we might as well start calling it Bub City 2.0— will have “a selection of the best in dark spirits and cocktails… handcrafted beers, shots and lots of whiskey.”
But McGee’s true venue will be downstairs, “a sophisticated 4,000 square foot Tiki lounge where [patrons] can enjoy classic drinks featuring fresh-squeezed juices and other exotic ingredients.” For the hardcore Whistler crowd, this will all seem too cartoonish, we’re sure, but let’s remember that the Tiki craze of the 40s and 50s was as much an authentic historical example of cocktail culture as the speakeasy era, and if McGee takes off the vest and pocket watch and replaces them with a Hawaiian shirt, that’s just trading one costume for another.
That certainly seems to be how McGee looks at it, anyway: “For quite some time, I have imagined creating a lounge that pays homage to the classic Tiki experience - but with our own distinctive vibe… You won’t be seeing thatched roofs and hula skirts here, but we will maintain all of the fun and whimsy traditionally associated with Tiki culture. However, we’ll definitely be serious about the cocktails.”
Both concepts are supposed to open this summer.