Doc Ryan's, 7432 Madison St. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

The building housing Doc Ryan’s bar, a Madison Street corridor staple for seven decades, is in the process of being sold to a cannabis dispensary. 

In a Feb. 8 announcement on its Facebook page, the bar announced that the building at 7432 Madison St. is being sold, and that March 31 will be its last day. During the Feb. 13 village council meeting, Mayor Rory Hoskins confirmed that the building is being sold to Euphoria LLC, an Olympia Fields based company that is looking to open a dispensary. He touted it as a way to bring in much-needed tax revenue to Forest Park, which, as non-Home Rule town, is more limited in its ability to raise taxes. 

To help Euphoria along, the village council voted 4-1 to allow cannabis dispensaries in the corridor by right on Madison Street instead of requiring them to get a Special Use permit. At the request of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, it capped the number of dispensaries within the corridor at one. Commissioner Jessica Voogd voted against both measures, arguing that it made no sense to restrict the number of dispensaries and that the conditional use process allowed the village to have more say over who opens the business. 

Doc Ryan’s originally opened in the 1950s. Brothers Matt and Brian Sullivan bought the bar from long-time owner Jim Shaw, who retired in the fall of 2007. Because it is one of the more spacious bars, it played host to a number of political events. Former mayor Anthony Calderone hosted several election night victory parties at Doc Ryan’s throughout the 2000s. 

While police have occasionally gotten calls about customer misbehavior over the years, during a July 26, 2022 liquor license hearing, Police Chief Ken Gross testified that Doc Ryan’s doesn’t have significant issues.

In late August 2022, Craig Veselik and Mike Barz told the Review that they were in the process of buying it from the Sullivans, pending the liquor license transfer and resolution of some other issues. They said they were looking to move the menu beyond classic bar food, as well as to introduce a larger cocktail menu. At the time, they said  customers shouldn’t expect to see any changes until the spring of 2023.

In its Facebook post, the bar floated the possibility of opening at another location. But the liquor license is attached to the property. Hoskins, who also serves as the village liquor commissioner, confirmed that, if Doc Ryan’s moves elsewhere in Forest Park, it would have to get a new liquor license.

The mayor didn’t specify who Euphoria is buying the property from, saying only that there are multiple owners.  According to Secretary of State records, Euphoria is owned by Brian Allen, who also owns the Tru Blue Security company. Hoskins said the dispensary would operate between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. – the maximum time span allowed by state law. It would have internal and external security cameras, and it would have security guards. The dispensary is expected to employ between 25 and 30 people.

Hoskins said the Euphoria dispensary would be a welcome source of revenue for local infrastructure projects. He told the Review that he expects it to generate $250,000 a year.

Before Feb. 13, Forest Park allowed cannabis dispensaries in industrial districts by right and in commercial districts as a conditional use. But during the Feb. 13 meeting, Hoskins said that approach hasn’t paid off. There have been several companies interested in opening up dispensaries on Madison Street.

In May 2022, Forest Park’s Planning & Zoning Commission recommended allowing cannabis by right in the Downtown Business District – both sides of Madison Street between Desplaines and Harlem avenues – but the village council didn’t act on that recommendation until Feb. 13. Hoskins said it was something the village originally proposed for a previous applicant. 

Forest Park Chamber of Commerce board member Bridget Lane told the council that, while they support the applicant and allowing dispensaries by right on Madison Street, they wanted to cap them at one.

“Respectfully, the Chamber does not want two, or three, or four dispensaries on Madison Street,” she said.

Commissioner Maria Maxham moved to amend the ordinance to reflect the request. 

Voogd argued that, given the revenue benefits Hoskins mentioned it made no sense to limit the dispensaries.

“I think we all agree that a cannabis facility will be a boon for Forest Park,” she said. “It seems counterintuitive to then restrict cannabis shops to just one.”

Commissioner Joe Byrnes responded that the shops could still open outside Madison Corridor, pointing to Bloc dispensary looking to open at the former CVS and the fact that they’re allowed by right in industrial areas.

Voogd also said conditional use process allows the village some measure of oversight that would still be useful. 

“By keeping it at a conditional use, that allows us some control over how this new revenue opportunity is coming into the village,” she said.

Voogd voted against the amendment and against the amended ordinance. 

A Look Back In Time

On the move

In 1994, Jim Shaw, owner of Doc Ryan’s, lost his lease at 7215 Madison St. and worked overtime to turn the former Old Towne West into Doc’s new home. The move would nearly double the size and capacity of the bar and plans to keep the Old Towne West deep dish pizza recipe was a bonus. On Oct. 9, 1994, as the Bears-Saint’s game broke for halftime, Shaw invited patrons behind the old bar for one last libation, and bagpiper Tom McNulty led the crowd of 100 into the new Doc Ryan’s at 7432 Madison. 

Jill Wagner