The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

November 19, 2013

Last call for landmark Billy Goat Tavern?

CHICAGO — No Coke. No fries. No desire to change things.

The Billy Goat Tavern has been a Chicago landmark for generations and a fixture under North Michigan Avenue for almost 50 years. And its owner wants to remain there, regardless of whatever redevelopment goes on above it.

Sam Sianis, who runs the tavern and is the nephew of the Billy Goat’s original owner, William Sianis, said he knew nothing of potential plans for a massive redevelopment disclosed last week that would involve replacing the Realtor Building, on property located above the Goat. That project would at least temporarily displace the tavern from the subterranean location it has called home since 1964.

“I want to stay here,” Sianis said. “I’ve been here for almost 50 years. Like the Realtors, I’m part of Michigan Avenue.”

During a recent lunch hour, patrons were at the well-worn tables and chairs as they always are, a mix of locals and tourists waiting for their orders and admiring the photos that line the walls.

“Nothing has changed since 1964,” Sianis said. “Nothing has changed from the time we opened up to now.”

Asked if he’d like a more modern, fancier new home as part of a new development, Sianis fell back on the cadence — No fries! Chips! No Coke! Pepsi! — immortalized by John Belushi in the “Saturday Night Live” skit that made the place famous.

“No fancy,” Sianis said. “I want it to be the same.”

Staying put wouldn’t be an option if the building above it is razed and redeveloped, but the National Association of Realtors thinks it has come up with the next best thing: Pick up the pieces of the tavern, picture frame by picture frame and chair by chair, and move the Goat across the street.

“The Wrigley Building has a basement area that would be a great transition,” said Bill Armstrong, the Realtors’ 2013 treasurer, who has been involved in the redevelopment discussions. “It would be seamless. Sam’s got to agree, but they would be positioning themselves in the same environment.

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