For 9,729 consecutive days, Delilah’s threw a celebration. The Lincoln Park punk rock bar and whiskey heaven opened in 1993, and it’s nonetheless an outlier in a neighborhood full of recent condos and a bar scene suffering from company institutions. Issues had been going nice till the pandemic. Closed for 16 months, Delilah’s wasn’t certain if that celebration would ever resume. However fortunately, it has, and it’s nonetheless an awesome celebration.
This month, Delilah’s will have fun 30 years of being in enterprise. There’s an anniversary celebration deliberate for August 31, however when each night time is a celebration, there’s no want to attend to have fun. We spoke with Delilah’s proprietor Mike Miller about operating an outlier house and what it’s like providing $1 beer specials and three-figure whiskeys beneath the identical roof.
InsideHook: You survived seemingly every little thing, together with gentrification and the pandemic. Do you suppose there’s a secret or is it simply you plugging away with one thing you understand?
Mike Miller: I feel that that form of sums it up: we’ve been the identical for 30 years. We opened earlier than the categorization of our business. Now for those who go to a social media web site, you’re recognized: you’re a sports activities bar, you’re a beer bar, you’re this sort of place. I attempt to clarify to folks that that is Mike’s bar — I’m the goal buyer. After I go searching proper now and on any given night time, there are folks of their early 20s, folks of their early 80s. So, why, proper? Why is it if I’m the goal buyer, there folks of all walks of life, genders and age teams coming into the bar? I feel we provide a novel expertise. We’ve been right here for all this time, and we now have all of this stuff which are form of what we do: music, movie, artwork, the whiskey stuff, the totally different spirits and beer stuff, which is simply not the norm now.
If you opened, you had been a vacation spot bar for lots of beer and bourbon aficionados. Now you possibly can go into any chain grocery retailer and discover superb beers. Are you continue to attracting the identical kind of beer snob as you had been 30 years in the past?
After we had been closed, I discovered an previous flier from the early days, and it marketed 150 beers and 150 whiskies. That was not the norm for beer — or particularly for whiskey — within the early ’90s. There have been actually solely a handful of locations round Chicago that had been specialty beer locations: Map Room, Hopleaf, Quenchers, Delilah’s. We had the primary deal with for Goose Island, we had the primary deal with for Three Floyds.
The whiskey half was undoubtedly a unique factor. A author in Louisville, Kentucky, within the mid-’90s wrote that one of the best place in America to drink American whiskey was Delilah’s in Chicago. And he or she was writing for a Louisville paper. That triggered a giant stir. Individuals inform me usually, “I’m going to open a whiskey bar.” I inform them to not open a whiskey bar. Begin to purchase whiskey, begin to develop a set, let any person else say you’re a whiskey bar.
Properly, let’s try this math proper now. What number of bottles of whiskey do you supply?
A thousand. We simply launched our 1,000th possibility. I acquired a little bit obsessive about the bizarro world that’s the present entry to mezcal, so the upstairs bar has transitioned a little bit bit — there are 150 agave spirits up there, and the rum assortment has migrated to the upstairs bar. On any given night time, you could possibly are available and pattern 1,500 or 1,600 beer, wine or spirits.
Are you prepared to inform me how a lot you pay a yr in insurance coverage for these bottles?
The insurance coverage simply went up.
I’ve been to Delilah’s extra occasions than I can rely. I bear in mind occurring my twenty first birthday, which was nice as a result of it was a Monday, and on the time you had $1 PBRs and $2 pictures of whiskey. And that was nearly 20 years in the past. Now it’s $1 Outdated Milwaukees and $2 pictures of Jim Beam on Mondays. Why preserve that worth level when seemingly everybody else has gone as much as at the very least $2 or $3?
Individuals don’t actually run that form of particular anymore, however I used to be a 21-year-old punk rock child, too. I’m usually informed I don’t cost sufficient throughout the board. I simply suppose we’re a rock ‘n’ roll celebration bar first, and I would like folks to have the ability to afford to come back right here, it doesn’t matter what their monetary scenario is.
We had been closed for 16 months, and I wasn’t certain how issues had been going to shake out when it got here to folks’s experiences being at residence. Had been they going to say, “Properly, that is what it prices for me to be at residence”? Or had been they going to be like, “I’m so sick of being at residence, I can’t wait to go on the market”? Was there going to be a year-and-a-half of individuals turning 21 who’ve by no means gone to a bar? We didn’t know. However what I discovered is that whereas folks have discovered what it prices to be at residence — and that’s at all times going to be a part of the equation — lots of people simply couldn’t wait to see what it’s like to have the ability to exit.
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