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The Hideout’s Owners Strike Back as Massive Development Jeopardizes Bourdain’s ‘Perfect Bar’

Acts like Big Sadie perform at the Hideout.

Tim and Katie Tuten want Sterling Bay and the city to pump the brakes on Lincoln Yards

The future of the Hideout Inn — the 85-year-old divey counter-culture bar and concert venue that Anthony Bourdain called “the perfect bar” — is in jeopardy. Developers have snatched up surrounding property to make room for Lincoln Yards, a proposed $5 billion and 53-acre development along Elston Avenue near Lincoln Park and Bucktown.

The city allied with developer Sterling Bay and have now proposed a tax-increment finance district to help fund the project. TIFs are a legal mechanism that could make it easier to force the Hideout to close at 1354 W. Wabansia Avenue. Hideout owners Tim and Katie Tuten were among the “dozens” or so who attended a hearing on Wednesday night to address the possible TIF.

The Tutens made a call for action on Tuesday night via social media when news of the meeting first popped up. Among their concerns is a lack of communication and transparency in the project and how quickly a TIF could be established.

The Hideout certainly has some fans including Chicago’s own Wilco.

The Tutens’ point on a lack of communication was made when Second Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins pandered to the crowd with the notion that the Hideout could be protected as a historical landmark. Block Club Chicago reported that Hopkins has already filled out paperwork to potentially start that process. The crowd cheered Hopkins when he made the announcement, but the Tutens weren’t impressed. Katie Tuten said Hopkins failed to talk with ownership before drafting the ordinance.

The Hideout has hosted concerts, comedians, dance parties, and talk shows since it opened in 1933. The no-nonsense atmosphere has endeared itself to locals, giving them a venue where off-the-beaten acts are given the spotlight. Its success bred a music festival where bands like Wilco played — the Hideout Block Party — held outside the bar. It also popped up on the Chicago Riverwalk in 2015 for a year.

Meanwhile, developer Sterling Bay has its own hospitality arm. Four Corners runs many bars such as Federales and Benchmark. The company has also invested in the expansion of Brendan Sodikoff’s Small Cheval burger chain. Lincoln Yards could provide Sterling Bay with more property to open its own restaurants and bars. It’s unclear if the company would welcome other restaurant/bar operators to the development. Any new Four Corners bars would theoretically be in competition with the Hideout. No representatives from Sterling Bay attended the hearing, according to Block Club. However, a Sterling Bay spokesperson told the Tribune that they “love” the Hideout and hope it “flourishes for decades to come.”

Additionally, Sterling Bay is working with event promoter Live Nation on the performing venues it hopes to build in Lincoln Yards. While those mainstream acts have large audiences compared to the mostly independent acts the Hideout books, that’s another competitive angle to keep an eye on. Tuten questioned Live Nation’s role on Wednesday.

TIFs are a sticky subject for Chicago residents, a tool that many feel has been abused by politicians eager to give developers a tax break. Wednesday’s meeting is probably just the first of several before the Hideout’s final fate is revealed.

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