SOUTHPORT LANES: BOWLING LOSES ANOTHER ‘SPEAKEASY’

It is a testament to bowling’s colorful history and, simultaneously, the stressful times in which we live that two bowling venues with histories as “speakeasies” are closing within a month of each other.

As previously reported, Paul’s Bar and Bowling is ending a run of more than nine decades on the Paterson/Clifton border in New Jersey. And now comes word that Southport Lanes in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood has become a victim of a prolonged mandated closure prompted by the coronavirus.

Here is an excerpt from the website of the facility, which dates back even further than that of Paul’s Bar and Bowling:

“Southport Lanes, first named The Nook, was built by the Schlitz Brewery sometime around 1900. Schlitz built several brew houses throughout Chicago and their buildings are marked by the Schlitz logo emblazoned on the facades. 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 20’s, 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.

“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.”

And those four hand-set lanes never were upgraded.

Here’s a report on the facility’s closing from the local CBS affiliate. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss a few vintage bowling photos.

https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2020/09/17/a-loss-of-history-southport-lanes-bowling-alley-going-out-of-business-after-98-years-due-to-covid-19/

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