'Hard Wood' is Forest Park's newest gay bar

Madison Street's Chalk will rebrand in mid-July

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By Thomas Vogel

Staff Reporter

A new gay bar, Hard Wood, is coming to Forest Park's nightlife scene, just about three years after the village's last remaining one, the Hideaway on Roosevelt Road, closed. 

Hard Wood will be located where Chalk, 7414 Madison St., currently sits. Chalk owner Matt Mathey and David Lipka, who runs bars in Berwyn and Hillside, are collaborating on the rebranding, which should be finished sometime in the next few weeks, in mid-July. 

"I've been wanting to open a gay bar forever," Lipka said. "My whole position is to ignite some spark, some change on Madison Street…Let's get everybody moving and shaking again. Let's get things rocking and rolling." 

A beer vendor introduced the pair about a year ago and they began brainstorming. Lipka, who is 34 years old, said he grew up going to some of Forest Park's now-closed gay bars, like The Nutbush on Harlem Avenue, and had always wanted to open one of his own. Mathey wanted to spur some new business at his bar. 

Lipka said Oak Park and Berwyn, along with Evanston, have some of the largest gay populations in the Chicago area. Suburban gay bars, Lipka said, are few and far between. Hard Wood, then, will fill a clear niche on Madison Street that has been absent for several years. 

Mathey agreed and said a slew of factors, including the '08-'09 economic downturn, changing habits of young people and the state-wide smoking ban, have slowed business all along Madison Street. Expanding food and drink options in nearby communities in Oak Park, Brookfield and Berwyn have siphoned customers away, too. 

"I've been here a long time. Everything's just like spinning its wheels," Mathey said, referring to Madison Street. "There's just not enough people coming to this strip anymore. It's just not what it used to be." 

Lipka said the bar's layout will be largely the same, although they have spent about $20,000 on new glassware, furniture, and a new bar backdrop. The floor was refinished, too. They've hired five or six new employees and are planning to add some light "artisanal" food items to the bar's offerings, alongside craft cocktails and beer. 

"It's a little more upscale," Lipka said. "And service, exceptional service, is what we are really striving for. 

The back patio is also transforming into a fully staffed tiki-style bar. The upstairs area, which previously hosted special events, like birthdays or DJ events, will now be open as a lounge space, with dancing. 

The idea, Lipka said, is to fill the whole two-story space, which includes seating for about 170 people, all the time, as much as possible. He also added that the bar will most likely have karaoke, trivia, and bingo, with a "gay twist" and possibly drag shows or cabaret-style events in the upstairs area. 

Mathey will still own the bar and Lipka will run day-to-day operations as general manager. 

"I've been working on this for months," Lipka said. "Now it's crunch time."

Reader Comments

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David Lipka  

Posted: July 9th, 2017 2:19 PM

In an attempt to answer a few questions and give some insight I offer this, Myself and my team do not bow down to bullies, cyber or real. We do not conform to any one side or the other. We do not and will not tolerate any ignorant, one sided comments about our community. Both Forest Park locally and the LGBTQ community. If you do not want to be a part of the Hardwood family, you simply do not have join us in celebrating life as we will do so proudly every damn day. What we will do is welcome everyone, EVERYONE without judgment, comment or complaint. We will have dancing, classy and appropriate shows, we for damn sure will still sponsor our rugby teams. We will have trivia and karaoke and football and baseball. We will work on setting up euchre if requested. We are the service industry. We will do our best to provide everything that is requested. And we will deliver those requests with a smile, honor and pride. No matter who you are. We will be an active part in our community and act like the gentlemen and ladies that we are. We will celebrate our quirks and our differences with extreme vigor and joy and with no shame. This is who we are and our tribe will stand strong and celebrate this beautiful thing called life together. We have 2 rules, be 21 years old, and don't be a dick. With love, The Hardwood team

Ralph Vendegna from Countryside   

Posted: July 8th, 2017 5:30 PM

This is Fabulous. Having another Gay Bar in Forest Park cannot wait for it to open. Since Hideaway Closed have not felt like driving into Elk Grove. This 170 capacity sounds awesome. I am sure it will bring in a lot of business and a lot of our Friends back to Forest Park. Will be watching for opening date.

Andrew Cooper  

Posted: July 7th, 2017 3:18 PM

Good luck in this venture. I hope it's a success.

John Gorny  

Posted: July 6th, 2017 7:40 PM

Will Euchre Chicago be holding weekly competitions there also?

Reginald Robertson from Oak Park  

Posted: July 6th, 2017 11:48 AM

I am a rugby player, currently with the mostly-gay Chicago Dragons club, based in Boystown and advancing to the ultra-competitive Division III this Fall. I did play three years for the mostly-straight Chicago Westside Condors rugby club (also Division III), based in Forest Park. Murphy's / Chalk was their regular bar for socials and other events going back a decade (the framed jersey on the wall, that's the Condors), and it's my understanding that Hardwood will still be the club's home bar. Having experienced nearly all of the Boystown and Andersonville gay bars over the years, all except those in the leather / S&M scene with backrooms for...stuff (Jackhammer, Touche, Man's country et al) are totally welcoming to non-gay folk. So anyone who feels major discomfort, that's on you, and it's a shame. Everyone likes to party and kick back, and you should weave the tapestry of your nightlife with diverse threads. That metaphor was bad, but this isn't, and I hope Hardwood is a big success.

Brian Kuhr from Forest Park  

Posted: July 6th, 2017 11:18 AM

Wow, the owners/developers didn't miss a single cliche from the "double entendre" name to "artisanal" food and drag shows and "gay" bingo. A gay bar for Forest Park would be a good thing, but this seems like an awfully clumsy attempt.

Pam Fontana  

Posted: July 5th, 2017 1:40 PM

Yeah to drag queen bingo! Haven't been to one of those since the Hideaway days.

Julia McAleer-Forte from Berwyn  

Posted: July 5th, 2017 1:22 PM

Labeling a "gay bar" as such just means it's a safe inclusive space for the LGBT community. NOT that you're not welcome if you're not gay. How difficult an idea is that I would like to be able to hold my spouses hand in public without the fear of being accosted or worse? If this is a concept you can't understand, don't patronize the bar. End of story.

Jet Grubaugh from Berwyn  

Posted: July 5th, 2017 12:54 PM

Also, stoked that a bar is opening in FP. Happy to support it in any way that I can!

Jet Grubaugh from Berwyn  

Posted: July 5th, 2017 12:51 PM

As a biggo queer I've no problem that a "gay bar" is going to open. Maybe you don't need labels but I've got an identity that isn't straight heterocentered or apologetic. I, personally, don't like the str8 invasion of queer spaces - I like dirty raunchy sexified back rooms and cruising and all the taboos that set us apart - let the hets feel uncomfortable, if they do, they're no friends or allies of mine. But hey, you'll feel just fine for drag queen bingo I'd assume.

Diana D Jameson from Berwyn  

Posted: July 5th, 2017 10:57 AM

Couldn't they come up with a less cis gay male centered name? This doesn't sound welcoming to the area's LBTQ population.

Jennifer Silver from Forest Park  

Posted: July 5th, 2017 10:44 AM

I can't wait! I'm already a fan of Chalk, but this will be even better. I'm especially excited about the drag shows! I can't wait to see some local drag kings and queens!

Shannon McGrady Wood from Forest Park  

Posted: July 5th, 2017 10:03 AM

Did I read dancing! Heck yeah! Best of luck to you.

Rosalio Medina from Forest Park   

Posted: July 4th, 2017 10:31 PM

Well come to Forest park and good luck to you.

David P Lindstrom  

Posted: July 4th, 2017 3:20 PM

Yes Emma, the cyber-bully that has already said that they feel terrible that Chaz feels judged. Please read carefully before you decide to insult me and my upbringing. I am all for the establishment (which maybe if you read more carefully you would understand) and wished them well already. Thank you for insight on my sorry life that happily doesn't have people like you posting about "negativity" yet post such in your response. Well done.

Emma Christiansen from Forest Park, IL  

Posted: July 4th, 2017 2:03 PM

David P Lindstrom, This isn't about you and your non-gay self. It's about a wonderful establishment that is opening in our community. We should all be welcoming them with open arms, not posting negativity. I think it's terrible that these cyber bullies need to put people down on the internet, in order to forget about their otherwise horrible lives. Sir, do some soul searching and raise your kids better than you were taught. That's a start. And to the owner of the bar and its patrons, WELCOME! STAY STRONG! And enjoy yourselves! We have a great community here in Forest Park!

Gina Garrison  

Posted: July 4th, 2017 9:47 AM

@Geoff, right? The name sounds more like a strip club. But to commenters feeling all excluded, seriously? There are like 2 million bars on Madison.

Evangeline Valhalla  

Posted: July 4th, 2017 9:28 AM

Good luck. I hope you do well.

Mikie Jimenez from Berwyn  

Posted: July 4th, 2017 1:38 AM

Having had worked at both Nutbush and Hideaway I see no problem with opening an establishment that says it is a gay bar and let's people know that it is. I once told a reporter that there is always a need for a gay bar but she couldn't understand. Its not being exclusive,but inclusive to everyone. Its letting people know if you come in this bar than there will be gay people, so if you see 2 guys or 2 girls sitting holding hands, or kissing or dancing and you are offended than walk over to the next bar. The younger generation is a lot more accepting than the older generation was . But unfortunately you still have plenty of people who look at it as something weird. Back in my days (I feel old saying that) some of my straight male friends were afraid to come into the Nutbush or Hideaway because they thought that they were going to get hit on. Sorry it's a bar where people want to come and relax and not be bothered by stupidity of people that don't understand. Again, by saying its a gay bar, it's letting people know that you won't be discrimated against, allowed to be made fun of, beaten up and feel uncomfortable to go into a place and be able to hold hands, kiss or dance with your significant other. Whether you're gay,straight,bi,lesbian, transgender or whoever you are it's a place you should be comfortable going to. I just wish I would have done it when I had the chance. Wish you the best of luck. My advice is just have fun with it. If you don't, then it will fail. I had the best 17 years of my life at The Nutbush. Hopefully you will have that there. I'll be in and check it out.

Geoff Binns-Calvey  

Posted: July 4th, 2017 12:27 AM

Nice name. Was "Big Dick's" taken? ;)

David Lipka  

Posted: July 3rd, 2017 9:55 PM

We will welcome everyone with open arms!

David P Lindstrom  

Posted: July 3rd, 2017 9:13 PM

Chaz, I get your point; but your point is a contradiction of meaning in my eyes. The thing that I maybe didn't make myself clear about is that by labeling it a "gay" bar, it makes me a "non-gay" feel is though I am not welcome. Answer this question honestly for me ... if a bar was labeled a "heterosexual" bar would you feel welcome there if you were a same sex couple? So my point is by labeling it a "gay" bar; I feel as though I am not welcome there. I feel terrible that you feel you're being judged for who you have decided to love, but it's the way the world is, someone is always judging you whether it be right or wrong. My family is judged all the time for being mixed, but I don't give a damn what anyone else thinks because I love my two boys no matter the color of their skin. We are trying our best raise them to be respectful young men.

Tommy Barnes  

Posted: July 3rd, 2017 8:03 PM

Have to agree with David Lindstrom. Inclusivity via exclusivity? When the Nutbush and Hideaway closed, the patrons went elsewhere....I don't get it. The demographics of most of the bars are in a constant state of flux.....out with the old, in with the new..... Ah well, good luck to the new venture.

Chaz Spice from Forest Park  

Posted: July 3rd, 2017 7:57 PM

David, if you think that discrimination is not an issue at the bars on Madison, then you try holding hands with your same sex partner at Doc Ryan's and tell me how that goes for you. Gay bars have existed in Forest Park for the past 50 years as a place that anyone, including "non-gays" like yourself can go without worrying about how we're being perceived and we can just exist.

David P Lindstrom from FP  

Posted: July 3rd, 2017 1:17 PM

I don't understand the necessity to label it a "gay" bar, in this time of 'perceived' segregation politically am I, a non-"gay", supposed to stay away? I don't feel that the bars/restaurants on Madison St discriminate against "gays" unless I am missing something. Labels are bad!!! Good luck with the new business.

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