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Video games as spectator sport: New Logan Square business wants to hop on trend — and sell players booze, too

The City Council’s License Committee agreed to let OP-ESPORTS sell alcohol to professional gamers and the crowds that gather to cheer them on

Vacant storefront in Logan Square, future home of OP-ESPORTS
A new business opening in a now-vacant storefront in Logan Square will allow gamers to watch other gamers compete in video tournaments. On Wednesday, the owners moved a step closer to being allowed to sell alcohol there, as well.
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A City Council committee agreed Wednesday to lift the moratorium on additional liquor licenses to allow booze to be sold at a new Logan Square business catering to the burgeoning spectator sport surrounding video game tournaments.

At the behest of local Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), the License Committee agreed to let OP-ESPORTS, opening in a now-vacant storefront at 2741 N. Milwaukee Ave., to sell alcohol to professional gamers and the crowds that gather to cheer them on.

Ramirez-Rosa, 30, the City Council’s youngest member, admitted even he sounded “like an older person” in describing a phenomenon that was new even to him.

“Apparently, folks are really into e-sports. … There’s different tournament games that people play. And this is becoming big business across the globe. There are massive tournaments in stadiums where people go and spectate people playing the video games,” Ramirez-Rosa said, noting that a Small Business Administration loan made the venture possible.

“There’s a number of these businesses opening around Chicago,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th)
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th).
Sun-Times file

OP-ESPORTS, he said, will “have 15 big screens where people are gonna be able to watch the folks that are playing. There’s also gonna be a bar. This is a business geared toward folks 21-and-up [who] enjoy playing video games and … drinking a beer while people play video games.”

Ramirez-Rosa said he asked the owner of OP-ESPORTS to make a presentation at the local CAPS meeting.

According to the alderman, community leaders support the new business and the Chicago Police Department’s Shakespeare District was “very excited” because OP-ESPORTS has agreed to install surveillance cameras at Milwaukee and Spaulding that will connect with the city’s broader camera network.

“So, in addition to providing security for the business, it will also provide cameras facing the Spaulding exit of the [CTA’s] Logan Square Blue Line stop. So there’s an additional benefit to the community,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

Ald. Michael Scott (24th) was so intrigued, he asked Ramirez-Rosa to introduce him to the owner of OP-ESPORTS to see if he can lure an outpost to his West Side ward.

“That’s a very interesting concept. I think that’s something that would work in another setting — without the alcohol. I’d just love to talk to them and get their ideas,” Scott said.

Ramirez-Rosa promised to make the intro.

Also on Wednesday, Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) persuaded his colleagues to lift a moratorium in his ward to allow a yoga studio opening up on North Avenue to sell wine to customers during special events.

Scott jokingly asked whether the wine would be served before or after yoga.

“That’s a good question,” Hopkins said.

“I’d have to have more than a few drinks to get into some of those positions at the yoga studio.”

At the request of local Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), the License Committee also lifted the moratorium on new new liquor licenses on part of 119th Street.

But, Austin did not attend the meeting one week after an FBI raid on her ward office.