March 30, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 13

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    City reverses denial of ‘Jimmy’s’ license

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    The Woodlawn Tap may open next month after nearly a year of dormancy. Last week, the City of Chicago’s License Appeal Commission reversed a Dec. 30, 1999, denial of the bar’s liquor license. If the city’s attorneys do not appeal the ruling, the 52-year-old Hyde Park institution could begin serving its unique line-up of philosophers, statesmen and students as early as this quarter.

    “This is terrific news,” said Hank Webber, Vice President of Community Affairs. “Jimmy’s is an integral part of the University and Hyde Park community.”

    Support for the Woodlawn Tap has been wide-ranging, from 4th Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle to University students. On behalf of Chicago’s Student Association, Student Government President Andy Hong sent Mayor Richard Daley more than 1,200 signatures petitioning the city to reopen the business.

    And earlier this year, the Chicago Tribune’s editorial staff wrote in favor of preserving a place “where Nobel Prize winners rubbed shoulders with workaday South Siders, where beat poets shared the mahogany with beat cops.”

    Commonly known as “Jimmy’s”––after its former owner Jimmy Wilson––the business temporarily closed last spring following his death. New owners Jim and Bill Callahan, who had worked there for several decades, renovated the bar and applied for a new license.

    They were denied because a parking lot across the street at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, which also houses a school, was 89 feet from Jimmy’s door. State law requires that a bar must be at least 100 feet from a church building and 100 feet from the property line of a school. Jimmy’s allegedly missed the mark by 11 feet.

    However, the Callahans’ attorney argued that the parking lot was not the school’s, but rather the church’s, making Jimmy’s more than 100 feet from the church building and far enough from the school to receive a liquor license.

    The Appeals Commission agreed and confirmed the community’s show of support. They stated in their ruling, “It is apparent that Jimmy’s has been enriching this neighborhood as a meeting place for the community since before the middle of the last century. It strikes us as a place where hard hat and lunch pail share the same bar with briefcase and Wall Street Journal, where a shot and a beer is as at home as a glass of Cabernet.”