Established in 2012, Amy’s Winehouse, was originally located on Madison Street in Forest Park and then moved to 7235 W. Roosevelt Road, in 2016. Now, eight years later, owner Mark Calahan is prepared to pivot once again to help his business survive.
He will transform the wine bar into Power Play Café — a hockey themed coffee shop open during breakfast and lunch hours only.
Calahan, who lives above the wine bar named for his former partner Amy, said the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an 80 percent drop in business. The business historically attracted an older clientele and Calahan speculates health concerns are keeping regulars at home. Even the musicians who regularly performed at the bar remain reluctant to come indoors to entertain patrons.
To further complicate matters, heavy rains in June left the establishment flooded forcing expensive repairs and a costly furnace replacement. Additionally, Calahan was facing a $6,000 expense to renew both his liquor license through the Village of Forest Park and his alcohol-related insurance policy.
Calahan knew he needed to make significant changes to better his chances of survival.
Deciding to reinvent his business, however, has been an emotional journey for Calahan. While shifting and renaming the business is a direct response to the pandemic, Calahan admits the changes mean accepting that his family life had permanently changed.
“Amy was the person everybody remembered when they came into the restaurant. I was just the rough-around-the edges hockey guy in the background,” said Calahan. “This was supposed to be a family business, but the truth is I have been alone for the last six months.”
Since the two split, Calahan has come to terms with the changes in his personal life and acknowledged “adaptation is a part of life.” He was raised by his grandparents who endured both the Depression and World War II. His family members were not strangers to struggle and Calahan credits his grandparents’ frugal nature and resourcefulness for his dedication to fighting for his business.
“No matter what I have to deal with I know it will never be as bad as what they went through,” said Calahan. “As bad as things are now, I know it will get better and I will be stronger for it in the end.”
Inspired by a family legacy of hard work, Calahan began making moves to put a bit more of himself into the business. He opted not to renew his liquor license and partnered up with Dark Matter Coffee in Chicago to bring a quality coffee program to Power Play Café.
“Coffee quality is very important to me,” said Calahan. “I also hope to have live music on the weekends.”
He is also playing to his strengths in the kitchen by putting a South American twist on his breakfast and lunch fare. Calahan will continue to offer his perennially popular bacon wrapped dates and Spanish potato tortilla — an omelet made of egg, onion, potato, and spinach. He will also offer breakfast inspired empanadas bursting with scrambled eggs, cheese and bacon and intends to offer Argentinean Alfajores, a dulce de leche sandwich cookie, for guests looking to enjoy a sweet treat with their coffee.
As for the hockey memorabilia Calahan aims to display in the café, it should serve as a “conversation starter” and acknowledges his lifetime of playing and coaching hockey. Calahan is the head coach of a competitive club hockey team made up of OPRF students and his 11-year-old daughter is playing ice hockey as well. Transforming the evening wine bar into a daytime café will allow Callahan to focus on coaching in the evenings and free up time to support his daughter’s burgeoning ice hockey endeavors.
Calahan hopes to complete the transition by Oct. 1. While he worries some of his customers will view the change negatively, he hopes the community will embrace the concept and support Power Play Café.
“When you invest your life savings in something it is impossible to walk away from it,” said Calahan. “Anything worth having is worth fighting for and I will fight to the end.”