Marie Wuczynski behind her beloved bar (Sun-Times photo)It is a dog bites man kind of story.
Or journalist drinks booze.
Marie’s Riptide Lounge, 1745 W. Armitage is closing. Again.
For good. Really. Well, maybe
The bar’s final night is being promoted as Aug. 31. According to a DNAinfo report, owner Tina Congenie is selling the building to next door neighbors, general contractors Bulley & Andrews.
“It hasn’t been sold yet,” Steve Sever, Vice-President of Bulley & Andrews said on Tuesday afternoon. “I’ve been at this for 20 years and a couple of times I’ve had deals. Yeah, there is an offer but it’s not what is reported in DNA by any stretch of the imagination. Until it’s a done deal it’s not a done deal. They are touting September 5 (sale date), but it was supposed to be prior to now and it hasn’t happened.” Attempts to reach Congenie were unsuccessful.
Marie’s opened in 1961. Bulley & Andrews moved into the Bucktown neighborhood in 1951.
The gritty-turned-hipster bar hit a rough stretch after owner Marie Wuczynski died in February, 2011. Marie’s since has had a couple farewell parties as Congenie struggled to keep the bar open. It lost its iconic late night license.
“We knew Marie for many years,” Sever said. “We were good neighbors. I helped her out when she was in trouble. She always said we were the ones to whom she was going to sell the building. And she left it to Tina, who was the bartender.”
Congenie was one of Wuczysnski’s best friends.
Chicago Bar Project photo
Marie bought the corner tavern in 1961 from the husband of her best friend who had died in an auto accident. Marie’s first bartending gig was at the Lucky Stop, a polka bar owned by her uncle near the corner of Wood and West Division streets. “The Lucky Stop Waltz” was popularized by Chicago polka legend Lil’ Wally Jagiello and was one of Marie’s favorite songs.
“I’m happy when other people are happy,” Marie once told me over a shot of Jagermeister.
We then laughed.
The Rip Tide hit its cultural crest in the late 1980s through the mid-1990s. A collage of Marie’s regulars was the regular double truck center piece of the late great Barfly newspaper. John Kennedy Jr. stopped into the Rip Tide before his George magazine party during the 1996 Democratic National Convention. He hung around for an hour, playing the vintage trap shoot game that hung on the north wall.
The Rip Tide was used as part of the set of the TV series “Crime Story” and Conan O’Brien featured Marie’s in his his NBC-TV era “Late Night With Conan O’Brien.” The great Billy Prine points out that the Bucktown neighborhood was a stomping ground for mob boss Hymie Weiss (Wojciechowski; 1895-1926).
Marie was born in Chicago and attended Wells High School. Her father was a Polish-born laborer. Her mother was from Warsaw, Wis.
Her parents were strict and gave their daughter the incredible eye for detail she put into play at Marie’s.
“Remember the small Carnation milks?,” she asked me in 1997.
Well no, not really.
She continued, “When my Mom was living it was about nine cents a can. After she passed away I’d buy Dad Carnation. That’s all he drank. By then it was 23 cents a can and he wouldn’t drink it because he felt it was too expensive. My daughter and I took nail polish remover and cotton and we’d erase the prices to make Grandpa happy.”
Marie’s Rip Tide made a generation of Chicagoans happy.
Time cannot remove those memories.