Schaller’s Pump, legendary Bridgeport tavern, to close after 136 years
Historic pub closing in Chicago
Schaller’s Pub, considered the oldest continuously running tavern in town, is closing this weekend. It’s been serving the Bridgeport neighborhood food and drinks since 1881. It had a lot of different names until being purchased by George Schaller near the end of Prohibition, when it also took “Pump” as part of its name because of the brewery next door pumping beer directly into the tavern.
Politicians, White Sox fans and neighborhood regulars knew they could find cold drinks, good food and hospitality at Schaller’s Pump in Bridgeport. For 136 years, the bar at 3714 S. Halsted St. hosted ordinary Chicagoans and elected officials, including the Daley clan.
But the last drinks are being poured this weekend. The tavern, believed to be the oldest continuously operating bar in Chicago, is closing Sunday night.
Kim Shinnick, whose family runs the business, confirmed the closing and said the kitchen will shut down for the last time at 9 p.m. Reached by a reporter Sunday afternoon, she declined to offer any details.
"I’m sorry, I’m having a really hard time with this right now," Shinnick said.
Loyal patrons packed the bar Saturday as word spread about its impending closure.
"Every happy moment in my family’s life has been here," said Elmer Mestrovic, 60, who lives in the neighborhood and has been coming to the bar since he was a toddler.
Long considered one of the city’s most historic taverns, the establishment opened in 1881 and was bought by George Schaller near the end of Prohibition. His son, Jack Schaller, took over in the early 1960s and ran the bar for decades with the help of his children, including Shinnick.
Jack Schaller died in 2016.
The bar took "Pump" as part of its name because of the brewery next door pumping beer directly into the tavern. It was a short walk from the former home of Richard J. Daley and across the street from the 11th Ward Democratic headquarters.
Among the menu selections: hamburgers and corned beef, liver sausage sandwiches, pork chops, steaks, ribs, and on weekends, $18.95 prime rib.
Leanne Scanlon, 30, who lives in the neighborhood and owns a business down the street, headed to the bar every Wednesday for the split pea soup.
"The family takes care of you," she said. "It’s a place you can go for home-cooked food. You never left hungry."
Scanlon, who is of Irish descent, said the late Jack Schaller reminded her of her own grandfather.
"It’s like an Irish blessing," she said of him and the Schaller family.
A photo of Jack Schaller from a Blackhawks game is propped up against the wall at the bar. In it, he’s wearing his World War II veteran hat and saluting.
Jack Schaller took over in the early 1960s and ran it ever since with the aid of his children, who started helping out while still in grade school. He lived in an apartment above the bar.
"He was just a great individual and a great part of the community," Cook County Commissioner John Daley told the Tribune after Schaller’s death at age 92.
On Saturday, there was no indication of the looming closure. Every seat at the bar was occupied, and the tables were packed. The vintage cash register rang brightly with each transaction.
"It’s almost like people are here to stop them," Mestrovic said. "They don’t want it to end. Nobody really knows why it’s ending."
Each person who ordered an Old Style or a Miller Lite had similar stories. They’ve commemorated birthdays, funerals, Mother’s Days, Father’s Days and first communions here.
Two little boys sprinted through the narrow hallway that connected the front of the bar to the back. Local news articles papered the walls of the hallway.
A neon Chicago Bulls sign glowed from behind the bar, and a poster commemorating the White Sox 2005 World Series win was tacked to the wall near tables covered in white tablecloths. Small dinner rolls individually packaged in plastic sat in wicker baskets.
Patrons greeted each other with an embrace and a kiss on the cheek.
"If you wanted to see anyone from the neighborhood, you would come here," Mestrovic said. "All they do is care about people in the neighborhood. It’s never about them, it’s always about people in the neighborhood."