Southport Lanes & Billiards
It’s the end of an era. We outlasted Prohibition and the 1918 Spanish flu, but not COVID-19. Southport Lanes poured its last beer on Sunday, September 27, 2020. We are overwhelmed and deeply touched by how many of you came out to pay your respects to Lakeview’s historic 98-year-old bar, bowling alley, and billiards hall. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your patronage and friendship throughout the decades.
A Brief History…
Southport Lanes, first named The Nook, was built by the Schlitz Brewery sometime around 1900. Schlitz built several “tied houses” throughout Chicago, and their buildings are marked by the Schlitz logo emblazoned on the façades. Federal laws later prohibited brewers from owning taverns.
In 1922, The Nook’s name was changed to Southport Lanes, and the 4 hand-set bowling lanes were added. Sometime during the ’20s, the tavern became a speakeasy with a brothel upstairs; there is even a dumbwaiter still in existence which used to bring refreshments to the girls and their male clients. Legend has it that Mayor Anton Cermak used to hold a weekly poker game in one of the secret rooms.
After Prohibition ended, a new building was constructed to the east of the bar room (currently used as a billiards room). Originally, this building housed a gambling facility with direct lines to tracks around the country. In essence, it was an illegal, off-track betting parlor. In the ’50s, the room became a beer hall for rent and a local polling place.
Southport Lanes was extensively remodeled in 1991 and again in 2003, but always with an eye on preserving the timeless feel of a Chicago institution. Until 2020, Southport Lanes offered an extensive craft beer selection, fantastic bar fare, bowling, and billiards.