Nick Kapranos didn’t have to work behind the bar as long as he did most Friday and Saturday nights.
But the night bartender at the Billy Goat Tavern was always a friend to the night-weary journalists who made the subterranean bar a Chicago legend.
So with the lights off and the door shut, he kept the bar open for the editors and reporters a little later than he was supposed to, said Dan Cahill, the Chicago Sun-Times’ deputy sports editor.
Then, Mr. Kapranos would say, “‘Danny boy, want to go down to George’s?’” Cahill said, referring to a bar that stayed open until 5 a.m.
And the journalists, obliged to Mr. Kapranos, would say yes. The group would make its way to the dive bar on Wabash where they would continue “talking about the Cubs and horse racing and whatever else,” Cahill said.
Mr. Kapranos, a longtime bartender at the Billy Goat, died June 5 at Chalet Living and Rehab in Chicago from several health-related issues, his son said. Mr. Kapranos, a longtime resident of Edgewater and of Gary, Ind., was 77.
Mr. Kapranos was born in 1937 in Kastri, Greece, but came to Chicago as a young teenager to live with his uncle, said Mr. Kapranos’ son, Bill Kapranos.
Once he was old enough, Mr. Kapranos began working at his uncle’s bar on Wabash, the son said.
In the 1980s, Mr. Kapranos made it to the Goat and asked owner Sam Sianis if he needed any help.
“He worked over 25 years, and he was a good bartender,” said Sianis, 79. “Everybody liked him — the Sun-Times, the Daily News, the Tribune.”
Sianis said customers would often call and ask if the man everyone called Nick was going to be there.
Cahill said Mr. Kapranos was kind to his regulars — offering generous pours and lively conversation — though tourists sometimes got an earful. Once, when a pair of Texans asked for a drink too complicated for the humble Goat, Mr. Kapranos let them have it, Cahill recalled.
“Look, we got shots and beers and cheeseburgers. That’s what we got,” Cahill recalled Mr. Kapranos telling them.
“He was your typical Chicago bartender,” Cahill said. “Friendly when he wanted to be, yet curt when he needed to be.”
And six nights a week, Mr. Kapranos could be found tending bar.
Mr. Kapranos retired from the bar nearly 10 years ago, Sianis said.
Mr. Kapranos’ son, who lives in Crown Point, Ind., said his dad was “a people’s person with a heart of gold.”
He said his dad loved the Cubs and was a “diehard” Chicago fan.
Mr. Kapranos is preceded in death by his wife of more than 50 years, Gloria. The couple lived in Gary and raised their family there.
Beside his son, survivors include a sister, Helen Torres; a granddaughter and two great-grandsons.
A viewing is scheduled for 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Pruzin Brothers Funeral Service in Merrillville, with the funeral at 10 a.m. Thursday at Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Merrillville.