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Pie Hole eatery: New location, old controversy
by Ross Forman
2010-09-29

This article shared 3390 times since Wed Sep 29, 2010
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Pie Hole is back in Lakeview, less than a 10-minute walk from its former location near the southeast corner of Halsted and Roscoe.

Opening on Broadway across from Treasure Island, Pie Hole looks—and tastes—much like its original eatery: same color scheme, same catchy phrases and same oven to cook pizza with the same recipe that became a staple particularly for the late-night-munchies crowd in Boystown.

When the bars closed, Pie Hole was the next stop—for fast food.

"We really felt like we had developed a brand, like Pie Hole had its own vibe, its own feel—and we definitely wanted to maintain that," said Doug Brandt, owner of the pizzeria.

Pie Hole closed in late May, although Brandt had been looking for a new location for almost two years.

"We had a hard time finding a [ new ] place. The overwhelming response that we got was, landlords simply did not want restaurants [ on their property ] ," he said. "It wasn't that they didn't want Pie Hole [ on their property ] because we didn't tell them what restaurant it would be, just that we were looking into opening a restaurant."

Brandt found and secured this new location about the same time that the original Pie Hole was closing. Construction started at the Broadway location in mid-July.

"I knew that I wanted to be on Halsted or Broadway; I was fine with either street. Or even on Belmont. Ideally, I would have preferred to be further south on Broadway, but nothing was available," Brandt said. "Our immediate goal is to just re-open with what we had. Meaning, about 95 percent of the menu will be the same [ as at the original location ] . The look and the feel will mostly be the same, so it is recognizable.

"The only real different look will be that we now have concrete flooring as opposed to tile floor."

In 2011, Brandt might expand the menu, perhaps to include pasta and more.

The kitchen at the new Pie Hole is in public view, unlike the original location. Pie Hole will once again offer custom slices.

And don't be surprised to see Brandt or others throwing the dough in the air.

But will controversy also follow Pie Hole to Broadway? That's the question some area residents really want to know—and they wanted answers before Pie Hole reopens.

"We had a couple of neighbors who were pretty vigilant, calling the police to complain, write their alderman, etc. It ultimately blew up into something," said Brandt, 39, a Lakeview resident.

The issue/debate was black and white, literally.

The area around Pie Hole's original location is a predominantly white area, yet Pie Hole often attracted young Blacks, many 19- or 20-year-olds who could not get into a bar. They hung around, or inside, Pie Hole, especially on Tuesday's Open Mic Night and Thursday's Karaoke Night. They also milled around outside Pie Hole along Roscoe—and Brandt admitted that they were, at times, quite loud.

"One school of thought was that we harbored criminals, prostitutes, drug dealers [ and ] assailants because of [ those ] two nights we had in the past. Completely not true," Brandt said. "Yes, a lot of 18- and 19-year-olds can be loud and annoying. But so too can anyone [ of age ] coming out of Spin, Sidetrack, Roscoe's or any bar on Halsted.

"In Boystown, we're used to seeing the typical white gay male. But we're not used to a young person of color standing on the corner. So much of Halsted Street is geared and dedicated to the 25- to 35-year-old white gay male. Every bar plays the same music and has the same drink specials, just on different nights."

Brandt said Pie Hole "absolutely" was singled out for criticism because it attracted young Black youths.

"Those nights, that's just who happened to show up—because all of the adults can get into the bars," he said.

Brandt said the young Black youths did not dramatically affect his sales—"not to the point where I was willing to give anything up or stop anything."

Karaoke Night at Pie Hole was ultimately cancelled because most of the attendees were not buying anything, he said.

"I thought the Open Mic Night was a cool thing; I really enjoyed it," said Brandt, who noted that attendees were poets, vocalists and musicians—and most were 19 to 30, particularly college students.

Brandt said the reputation that Pie Hole attracted the young Black crowd hurt negotiations with a couple of locations for his new restaurant. "Word may have gotten to them, somehow," he said.

Brandt is not sure yet whether or not he will resume Karaoke or Open-Mic Nights at the new location, mostly due to space limitations within the 850-square-foot restaurant.

The biggest objector to Pie Hole is Ronald Baker, president of the Belmont Harbor Neighbors Association. In fact, he invited Brandt and 46th Ward Alderman Helen Shiller to a recent meeting "to ease resident's concerns, given this firm's history at its previous location," Baker wrote.

Brandt said he would attend.

"Anyone who ever complained … if I had a way to reach them, I personally invited them to [ to the restaurant ] . I also have invited key political people from the area and others. If you came to Pie Hole, you'd realize it's just a real cool, chill crowd. There's no drugs, no alcohol [ served to minors ] ," he said.

The new Pie Hole will be BYOB.

"I have no idea what to expect," when we open, said Brandt, who was not expecting protesters.

"I never set out to have a certain crowd. I've always wanted a salad bowl—all different, cool people. I always wanted Pie Hole to be the anti-establishment alternative.

"And we never had any problem with the kids.

"If you want drugs, prostitutions or things like that, yes, you definitely can find that in Boystown. But not at Pie Hole.

"I feel very confident that we'll do very well at this location, including more dinner and more delivery business. The big unknown is, will we get people coming here from Halsted Street when the majority of the bars close."


This article shared 3390 times since Wed Sep 29, 2010
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