One of Chicago’s most notorious live music venues is back in business at 1035 N Western Avenue. The indie music venue and bar closed temporarily due to the pandemic but reopened again this month with a promise to tend to all thirsty and hungry souls that have missed iconic nights at the Bottle.
Empty Bottle started out in 1992 as a self-described “cat-ridden hole-in-the-wall bar” that owner, Bruce Finkelman, recalls opening for around $934. It then moved two blocks up the street towards Wicker Park into a slightly larger space and quickly built a reputation for its memorable live shows and cheap drinks.
Finkelman’s “cat-ridden hole-in-the-wall bar” became a portal into a diverse and eclectic music scene for locals in the 1990s. The venue, known for booking alternative bands and experimental improvisers, has hosted the likes of the Tortoise, White Stripes, Flaming Lips, Interpol, Girl Talk, the Strokes, Touch and Go, Vampire Weekend, and Alt J.
It boasts such a prestigious history, in fact, that Chicago independent publisher Curbside Splendor released the book, The Empty Bottle Chicago: 21+ Years of Music/Friendly/Dancing back in 2016 documenting the venue’s illustrious history and contribution to Chicago’s music scene.
The beloved venue is now up and running again on Wednesdays through Sundays. A few COVID-compliant house rules have been introduced to make sure Empty Bottle can operate safely. Capacity has been capped at 35 and parties can’t be larger than 6 while there is no eating at the bar and masks need to be worn at all times when not seated.
It has been over a year since Empty Bottle hosted their last ticketed gig and they’ve promised that a return to hosting their legendary live music nights is on the horizon, as soon as it is safe enough to do so. No live shows are scheduled yet, but they encourage people to keep an eye on their social media channels and the Empty Bottle webpage for programming updates.
Empty Bottle’s opening hours are now 4:30 pm to 9:30 pm Thursday through Saturday whilst on Wednesdays and Sundays, Empty Bottle will close 30 minutes earlier at 9 pm.