Last Labor Day weekend a fire devastated two Forest Park businesses on Madison. Skrine Chops reopened almost a year to the date. Their next-door neighbor, an antique store was also heavily-damaged by smoke and water. It’s been recently reborn as Tapas 7232 Music on Madison.

When the fire struck, owner Mark Calahan had just signed a lease for the century-old storefront. The damage set back his plans for a New Year’s Eve opening. The interior was gutted back to the brick walls and the floor was torn up. Code Enforcement Officer Steve Glinke suggested some much-needed upgrades. The eye-catching dcor is still a work in progress but, after sixty thousand dollars in remodeling, the restaurant-nightclub is open for business.

Mark, a former property manager, became familiar with Forest Park, while playing hockey in Oak Park and repairing with teammates to Madison Street. He had also worked at Gunzo’s hockey store on Madison. He and his manager, Amy Storey, approached Mayor Calderone about a space on the strip and he told them of several rentals.

After negotiating a lease, they were considering opening a wine bar with live music. Mark, however, who is half-Spanish and had married into a Cuban family, decided to create a fusion of Cuban and Spanish delicacies. Their Argentinean cook, Naty Olmeda, added recipes from her country, while Naty’s mom prepares the pastries. Mark’s only job is making the red and white sangria.

Besides his passion for hockey, Mark plays the stand-up bass in three reggae bands. After riding the road for so many years, he wanted a home for his band, Patois. They take the stage monthly at the tapas restaurant. There’s also a jazz jam on Tuesday nights, Oak Park’s Peter Saxe Trio on Thursdays and other local bands on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Moreover, Mark’s a fiction writer who wanted to provide a sanctuary for prose and poetry readers. The bistro hosts readings on Thursday and Sunday evenings. Music and poetry fans can enjoy reasonably-priced tapas and entres. The flaky-crusted empanadas are only $2.75. Mark said they’re like a drug, as customers inevitably order more. Their most expensive dish is $14.00. They’re introducing a Sunday brunch from 10:00 to 2:00, featuring a breakfast buffet and omelet station.

The new restaurant brings three elements to Madison that were missing: tapas, jazz and spoken word performance. It also provides something we often find in Forest Park, a full bar. The bartender puts a bit of twist on this by serving specialty cocktails like mango mojitos.

Mark and Amy are simpatico on most subjects. They both like baseball and hockey. However, Mark, who plays in a Detroit-based band, is a Red Wings fan, while Amy is an avid supporter of the Blackhawks. For business reasons, they’re going to fly the banner featuring the chief.