Rockwood Place, which opened Aug. 25, occupies the spot at 3446 N. Clark St. formerly home to another bar/restaurant, the Central.
The new joint is still part of the same group, Eat Well. Drink Better. Management Co., that decided a makeover was needed to help stand out in the Wrigleyville masses (Eat Well. Drink Better., a private, locally-based firm, also runs four other, mostly North Side bars: English, the Grand Central, Angels & Mariachis, and LaSalle Power Co.).
So they redid the place in a lot of dark reds – from the lights to the wood-paneled walls to the felt surface of two new pool tables – upgraded the menu beyond usual sports-bar fare and inserted a small corner stage for live music.
“One problem with the Central was it was very ‘cold,’ ” Rockwood Place manager Ivan Torres said. “We wanted to give the venue a little more of a cozy feeling.”
With another long, cold Chicago winter nearing and the Cubs soon to be put out of their misery, that seems like a good idea.
Still, Rockwood Place enters an already-crowded roster. When it comes to taps per capita, Wrigleyville might only be rivaled by Bourbon Street in New Orleans. But there’s a fair amount of turnover – bars around here in recent years have changed the way Cubs manager Lou Piniella changes his lineups.
We count roughly 21 bars, including Rockwood Place, on the two-block stretch of Clark from Addison St. on the north to Newport Ave. on the south. All told, there are more than 40 bars within a 3-4 blocks of Wrigley. For 81 Cub game days of the year, the scene is hopping. But what about the other 284?
There’s no great secret to staying in the game, Torres said. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “If you’ve got good food and good service, you can really distinguish yourself.”
The economy comes into play for any business, of course, and Torres said the notion that booze is recession-proof is a myth. In the past year, corporate events have been drastically scaled back, crimping a key revenue stream for local bars and restaurants.
“You depend on private parties,” Torres said. Corporate events “used to happen,” he said, but business during last year’s holidays was practically “non-existent.”
“We’re hanging in there, but we’ve definitely felt the effects” of the recession, Torres said.
As for the bar’s name, Torres said Rockwood Place signifies nothing in particular. “It’s just something we threw out there, and it really stuck,” he said.
CKOW wishes the folks at Rockwood Place well. In times like these, we can never have too many good places to go get a drink.