Chicago corner bar Lottie's Pub turns 85, relic of historic Bucktown

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Lottie's Pub celebrated its 85th birthday on May 14, making it one of the oldest bars in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood and a true keeper of the neighborhood's history.

"This is a dying breed: corner bar in the middle of the neighborhood in Chicago. Once upon a time, they were on every corner. But, you know, with gentrification and whatnot, they're almost all gone," said co-owner Mark Domitrovich.

Other Chicago corner bars may have been priced out of residential neighborhoods, but Lottie's is still packed full of customers on most nights.

"It's always busy, weekdays and weekends. The crowd is always great. I love my regulars," said bartender Danika Mulkahy, who has worked at Lottie's for five years.

Gene Goc, 71, has been going to Lottie's since he was a child. He grew up just around the corner, then moved right next door in 1967, and he rarely misses a day at the pub.

"I love it. I have no desire to go anywhere else because, number one, it's so close," Goc said. "And, you know, all the people I know that work there and the people I've met there over the years have become great friends."

Known as "The Mayor of Cortland Street," Goc has his own brass nameplate right under his regular stool at the end of the bar. He vividly remembers the bar's original founder and namesake, Lottie Zagorski, a Chicago icon.

"I first encountered her when I was about 12 years old. And they used to have a strip show there on Saturday nights in the basement. And me and my buddies, we'd lay on the sidewalk. They used to have these little half-moon windows. And we're peeking in there. She'd catch us and chase us away," Goc said.

Goc and Domitrovich said Lottie herself wasn't necessarily a gangster, but according to them she oversaw illegal gambling and mobster payoffs inside the bar on a regular basis.

"Between cops, some of the underworld, you name it," Domitrovich said. "But Lottie was a trusted source on both sides of the coin."

As an intersex woman, Lottie has also become a queer icon for her prominence and influence as early as the 1930s with local politicians and mafia leaders.

Bucktown has changed dramatically over the decades, placing Lottie's in what is now the center of a luxurious housing district. As everything around it changes, the owners are focused on maintaining the pub's historic identity.

"We do an anniversary every year, and whatever year it is, that's what the beers cost. So next year it'll be 86 cent beers," said Domitrovich. "If you really want to see what a corner bar in Chicago looks like, I think this is the place to go."
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