For the first time in three years, Forest Park will again have a gay bar. Hard Wood will open on Madison Street by mid-July. And we are curious to see how a destination gay bar will fare in 2017.

In the old days, when Forest Park was a pioneer as the home to two such establishments –  Nutbush and The Hideaway – the worry was that patrons would be safe, their privacy assured. But, now the question is if in America in 2017, in a progressive urban area, there even is a need for a bar focused on welcoming gays.

Two years ago, in the Review’s annual Pride section we raised just that question. Are gay bars passé? The consensus then was “probably.” In a time when everyone is welcome pretty much anywhere, why a gay bar?

David Lipka, a veteran bar owner, told our Thomas Vogel he’s “wanted to open a gay bar forever” and that Madison Street has been the preferred location. He’s teaming with Matt Mathey, the owner of Chalk to convert that bar to a gay focus.

We’re talking a tiki bar patio, karaoke, trivia and bingo with a “gay twist.” Possibly drag shows and cabaret in the second-floor event space.

Lipka talks about the heavy gay population in Oak Park and Berwyn as good indicators of possible success. And he’s confident there is still something positive and engaging for gays in a bar built exclusively for them.

We’re waiting to see. But in a town with a lot of bars looking for ways to distinguish themselves, there’s nothing much more defining than being gay.

What town are you in?   

OK. That’s an odd first question to hear when you call 911. But with Forest Park police, fire and paramedic dispatch services now consolidated into a shared center with Oak Park, River Forest, Elmwood Park and, oddly, Park Ridge, that is actually the most critical first question.

Forest Park was pushed into this consolidation, the result seemingly of the only actual legislation passed by the sitting governor since his arrival in Springfield. All small towns in the state were forced to find efficiency by merging their dispatch service.

While change is hard, we’re fans of consolidating services and would look forward to similar direction to push fire departments into shared districts.

In the meantime, the 911 consolidation has been handled with sensitivity as most of Forest Park’s dispatchers have been hired at the new center and scheduled across shifts so there is a local presence as calls come in. Going forward, there will be savings as dispatch technology continues to change and get more costly. More immediately there will be upsides as additional training is being offered to all dispatchers in areas such as emergency medical dispatch that allows frantic callers to provide immediate medical care even as paramedics speed to the scene.

Good for Forest Park for making this change with positive effort even with the initial reluctance.