It’s been on the rental market since at least February, so it was no surprise when Bar Louie restaurant shut its doors for good on March 31.
The conspicuous Bar Louie sign at 1122 Lake St. is already removed from the storefront and the restaurant management left a note on the door saying, “Thanks for the memories!”
Bar Louie representatives did not return phone calls requesting an interview.
The closing follows a number of restaurant closures in the area over the last several months. Five Guys hamburger restaurant, right across the street at 1115 Lake St., closed in November, and Mancini’s Italian Bistro restaurant, 1111 Lake St., has been closed since around the beginning of the year.
Prairie Bread Kitchen, located nearby at 103 N. Marion St., announced in March that it’s closing up shop right after Easter of this year.
Viktor Schrader, economic development director of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation, said that the reality is that “it’s a competitive marketplace, and turnover is natural.”
“Things change within people’s lives and within corporations that causes them to close,” Schrader said. “There’s still a lot of excitement in downtown Oak Park and there are a lot of opportunities there.”
He said there has been a lot of interest from up-and-coming restaurateurs for “second-generation restaurant space” – that is space that is already built out as a restaurant for a previous tenant.
“We recognize there are going to be times when there are a couple of closures in the same area, and that may give people concern, but that’s kind of the nature of downtowns,” he said.
Schrader added that new construction of luxury high-rise apartment buildings downtown has brought with it “a lot of interest from retailers and restaurateurs.”
Shanon Williams, executive director of Downtown Oak Park, said she expects Mancini’s to reopen shortly under original owner Al Mancini.
She added that Bar Louie and Five Guys had both been then there for a while and she wasn’t surprised to see them close. “I wasn’t disappointed that they left,” she said, adding that she doesn’t want to see businesses close in downtown.
Prairie Bread Kitchen is a different story, she said.
“They were near and dear,” she said. “There are a lot of reasons they decided to walk away.”
Owner Doran Payne told Wednesday Journal in late March that it was a personal decision for him to close Prairie Breach Kitchen, but he noted that rapidly rising taxes was a big driver in his decision.
Williams said she worries about a streetscape project on Lake Street that is expected to begin in the spring. That project will take months to complete and disrupt business activity in the area.
“If anybody is in bad shape right now, that’s definitely going to push them over the edge,” she said.