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Chicago Bar Transforms Into Hanukkah Hot Spot During The Holidays

The owners of a Chicago bar say their Hanukkah pop-up bar is the first and only place to host such a thing in the city.
Posted at 8:09 PM, Dec 19, 2022

As red and green illuminate America this holiday season, a blue-lit storefront in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood proudly stands out.

During the rest of the year, the sports bar is called the Graystone Tavern. But for the fourth year in a row, it welcomes Jews and non-Jews alike to celebrate all things Hanukkah for more than a month as a pop-up bar named Eight Crazy Nights.

The bar up front, the patio in the back, the hallway in between — every corner of the place is plastered with lights.

"We're probably up there in the neighborhood of 20,000 lights," said Kyle Bagley, co-owner of The Graystone Tavern.

It's complete with ugly Hanukkah sweaters, giant menorahs and dreidels celebrating Jewish humor. Yet, owners Bagley and Sam Stone are not Jewish themselves.

"Some bars in the neighborhood were starting to do Christmas-themed pop-up bars, and we've got quite a few Jewish friends," said Stone. "So we thought, we actually asked them, 'Hey, what do you guys think? We've got this idea.' And they loved it."

Bagley said they wanted to make sure they got it right.

"Those were the questions that we asked frequently: 'Hey, man, can we use this? Can we say certain Jewish terms and pair them with cocktails?'"

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With permission from their Jewish friends, they came up with cocktails like the mensch mule, the Hebrew cold brew and the Sabbath night fever.

"We were so excited just to get that name out there, like I don't care if anybody ever ordered one because it's just such a good name," Bagley said.

There's also a Jewish-inspired food menu, with Hanukkah favorites like latkes and jelly donuts and other staples like challah grilled cheese. 

The pop-up even hosts dreidel tournaments. Organized by ChiTribe, a nonprofit that helps Jewish young adults find social events, the tournament doubles as a mixer. 

ChiTribe rented the back patio one night, with attendees saying they loved the warm and familiar feeling of the place. 

"Walking into a place that just fully decked out in blue in white and Jewish symbols and all that, it feels like stepping into kind of a safe place and a place that's homey," customer Jenn Milhiser said.

"There's so many Christmas parties in Chicago. There's nothing for Hanukkah, and to have this is amazing," customer Ari-Ben Zeev said.

Non-Jewish customers say they too love how unique the pop-up is.

"As a Hanukkah bar, it stands out," said Shivani Sharma. "I like to do stuff that's different, that you don't see every day."

As for Bagley and Stone, they say the pop-up has been so successful, it has turned one of the quietest months of the year into a best-selling one. 

"Traditionally December in Wrigleyville is usually a very slow month, but since we did this, it's just been fun. It's been off the charts. We turned it around," Stone said.

Though this year Hanukkah ends on Dec. 26, the pop-up will last until Jan. 8.

And if hopeful goers can't make it this year, Bagley and Stone say it will return next year and the one after.

"I see us doing it forever," Stone said.