Next in line for the notorious Tremont property that most recently was home to SalsaRito is Cloak & Dagger
(2399 West 11th St.), which owner Casey Hughes describes as a “neighborhood craft cocktail bar.” Hughes and business partner Cory Hajde are shooting for a late-September opening.
Despite an admittedly speakeasy-sounding name, Hughes wants to dispel any notions that Cloak & Dagger is going to be a haughty hideaway. Instead, the aim is to be mid-market and approachable.
“I’m going to push the speakeasy vibe down because that’s definitely not what we are,” she explains. “We are first and foremost a bar. We want to be an everybody bar, but we want to bring craft and creativity and hospitality to an everybody bar. We want anyone who walks through Lincoln Park. We’re not going to turn anyone away because they don’t feel like drinking a 10-dollar cocktail.”
In addition to affordable craft cocktails and other liquid refreshments, Cloak & Dagger will launch with a light menu of “plant-based” snacks and, perhaps, larger items.
“It will be mainly bar snacks to keep you drinking and keep you comfortable,” says Hughes, adding that the neighborhood is rich with full-service dining options. “We’re going to start small and see how it goes, but if we have to get bigger, we will do that.”
Prior to Merchant Street opening its doors a few years back, the prominent property on Lincoln Park received a much-needed renovation that relocated the bar and expanded the dining room. Because of that, notes Hughes, the bulk of the work that lies ahead is largely cosmetic.
“The bar has great bones; everything is pretty much brand new,” she reports.
The bar and booths will stay put, but will undergo some refurbishing. The conventional tables and chairs will be replaced with more booths and plenty of soft seating, with the goal of creating a “living room vibe.”
“We want you to stay a little bit.”
On the hunt for a home since late last year, Hughes says she was thrilled to secure such a great location in a fantastic neighborhood.
“We were looking heavily at Gordon Square and Tremont,” she adds. “Gordon Square seemed built-up, but Tremont always felt like the spot to me. I like that it’s a walking town; everything is in one little hub. It’s beautiful, it’s kept up and it has history. We definitely lucked out.”
As for all that talk about a “cursed” location, one that has been home to a revolving door of restaurants in recent years, Hughes laughs it all off.
“We love the word ‘cursed;’ we think it’s great,” she jokes, adding that she believes a lack of attention and customer awareness more likely doomed previous tenants than an address.
And as for launching a new business during a global pandemic, Hughes says that the situation removes any pressure to sprint toward opening day, giving her and her partners the time to make the necessary improvements and ready the staff so Cloak & Dagger can make a great first impression.
“We definitely didn’t expect Covid – I don’t think any nobody did,” she explains. “I’m currently working part-time at the bar I work at now with restrictions. I see the difficulties it does place on the staff and everyone involved. It’s not easy. And I respect my friends who are in the craft industry who have decided to stay closed or do to-go. But for us, it’s taking the pressure off and giving us the time to do the renovations and get everything ready.”
Of course, the team is also mapping out backup plans that include reduced seating, limiting the menu, reservations and to-go business.