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California Clipper, longtime Humboldt Park tavern, to shutter its doors

The dimly-lit and intimate tavern, dating back to the 1930s, was a venue where some of the city’s musicians and sound selectors curated jam sessions.

The California Clipper, located at 1002 N. California Ave., is closing permanently, according to multiple media reports.
The California Clipper, located at 1002 N. California Ave., is closing permanently, according to multiple media reports.
Evan F. Moore/Sun-Times

While Chicago’s bars — and their employees — patiently wait for the city’s official re-opening phases to kick in, a longtime Humboldt Park tavern won’t be around to experience what it’s like to survive the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The California Clipper, located at 1002 N. California Ave., is closing permanently, according to multiple media reports Thursday.

The closing, first reported by Eater Chicago, says that Brendan Sodikoff, the tavern’s owner, couldn’t come to an agreement with the property’s landlord “that would make sense for the bar and coffee shop to remain as tenants.” Sodikoff, the CEO of Hogsalt Hospitality (Au Cheval, Bavette’s) who bought the venue in 2014, also confirmed in the report that he’s shutdown C.C. Ferns, a neighboring coffee shop.

C.C. Ferns, a neighboring coffee shop, was closed for good along with the California Clipper, according to multiple media reports on Thursday.
Evan F. Moore/Sun-Times

Sodikoff and Gino Battaglia, the Clipper’s landlord, were unavailable for comment.

The dimly-lit and intimate tavern, dating back to the 1930s, was a venue where some of the city’s musicians and sound selectors curated sets for people to jam to.

Isaiah Spencer, a drummer for various local jazz bands, including The Spencer Collective, first performed at the Clipper during the 1990s, and most recently in January.

He learned of the Clipper’s closing from a friend.

“That messed up, man,” said Spencer. “They just kind of got the music together as he [Sodikoff] built a DJ booth, so yeah, that’s unfortunate, man.”

Spencer, the assistant jazz band director at New Trier High School, says a lot of bars and venues will have a tough time bouncing back in the aftermath of the pandemic.

“We’re not going to be able to make the money we once saw — not right now at least,” said Spencer.

The Clipper was also a favorite spot for first dates for some neighborhood residents.

Humboldt Park resident John Ingram went on a date at the Clipper two days before Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive order in March closing Illinois bars and restaurants.

“Pretty much all my friends and everybody I met had a connection here in one way or another. People came here for the music or the bartender,” said Ingram, who would normally order a Negroni cocktail. “The dark, red lights and the atmosphere; something felt appropriate about just drinking Fernet [-Branca]on the rocks.”

And did the California Clipper provide the perfect setting for the start of a beautiful relationship?

“We’re going strong now, so I guess it went pretty well,” said Ingram.