After 22 years, three liquor commissioners and some 64 grandchildren, Jim Shaw will step out from the behind the bar at Doc Ryan’s and ease into retirement. The longtime owner of the Madison Street mainstay confirmed this week he is selling the business and will hand the keys over to another familiar name in Forest Park’s bustling bar scene. Brian Sullivan, who owns the building that plays home to Murphy’s Pub just a few doors down from Doc’s, will be taking over for Shaw, likely at the end of the month.
“It’s sad. It’s been a long time,” Shaw said of letting the business go. “I’ve made a lot of friends.”
Those friends include more than 60 “grandchildren,” he said, whose parents first met in his tavern. The opportunity to befriend three generations of patrons has been truly rewarding, Shaw said.
Doc Ryan’s, 7432 Madison St., has no doubt seen its share of budding romances–some induced by alcohol, others more genuine–but the multi-story tavern is synonymous with celebrations of softball glory, charitable causes and night life in Forest Park. With its rooftop deck, video games and bar stools spread out over two floors, Doc Ryan’s is one of the larger taverns in town. Having first opened in the 1950s, Shaw said the watering hole has plenty of local history that helps customers feel connected to the place.
For Sullivan, those selling points reinforced his decision to buy the property and he assured customers that few changes will be made when the business changes hands. The new owner is partnering with his brother, Matt.
“We’re looking forward to continuing to do business with Forest Park,” Sullivan said.
Neither Sullivan nor Shaw would discuss the purchase price or other terms of the sale. Officially, Sullivan said he and his brother expect to be at the helm Nov. 1.
For all its blue collar luster, Doc Ryan’s has also become something of a political headquarters under Shaw. Mayor Anthony Calderone has hosted several election night victory parties at Doc Ryan’s and it’s no secret that Shaw’s allegiance is to Calderone. The mayor also serves as the village’s liquor commissioner.
Since 2000, Doc Ryan’s has contributed some $3,000 to the mayor and his political allies on the council. Through purchases at Doc Ryan’s, Calderone returned more than $3,500 in campaign funds to Shaw this year.
“I’ve gone through [Fred] Marunde and I’ve gone through [Lorraine] Popelka and now I’m with Tony as the liquor commissioner,” Shaw said. “Every person I’ve worked with in this community has been fair to me and I think I’ve been fair to them.”
Sullivan said he hopes to continue that relationship with the mayor’s office, adding that he voted for each of the sitting council members in this year’s elections.
In addition to the Murphy’s Pub property, Sullivan owns and operates an insurance agency in Forest Park, has a marina in Silver Lake, Wisc., a tavern in North Riverside, is a former partner in Skrine Chops on Madison Street and recently sold another bar in Hillside.