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Since 1958, the Old Town Ale House has been a neighborhood landmark and favorite late-night hangout of The Second City cast and is fondly referred to as the “Le Premiere Dive Bar.” If you’re looking for a place with traces of the 60’s and 70’s Old Town vibes or a quiet bar and hangout for artists and intellectuals, Old Town Ale House is it. Cheap beers, sawdust, portraiture of the regulars through the years, a library of pulp fiction, and the occasional B-list celebrity can be found within the ramshackle environs of the Ale House.
In the 80’s it wasn’t uncommon to see a group of blue collar men drinking here after work, while a few hours later kids from Second City, (just across the street) would storm in filling the bar with rambunctious energy. By closing time, Old Town Ale House would be a hodgepodge of jazz musicians, bartenders, waitresses and busboys along with some serious alcoholics.
When the bar changed ownership in 2005, the new management decided to extend the famous Ale House wall mural, a large mural painted in 1972 by Maureen Munson featuring Old Town regulars. Now stained brown from years of hazy cigarette smoke, the mural lies beneath portraits of the more famous regulars (including Nelson Algren, Mike Royko and Roger Ebert) upon a wood paneled wall that matches the ceiling.
When Sarah Palin received the Vice Presidential nominee at the 2008 Republican Convention, Bruce Elliott, an Old Town Ale regular and in-house artist (he’s the artist behind the portraits on all the walls) headed down to the bar’s basement studio and created a portrait of Sarah Palin standing over a polar bear rug holding an assault rifle and wearing nothing but a pair of harlot red high heels. The portrait was meant as an entertaining joke for the regulars, but within two hours it had gone viral. The next day all of the major TV networks came in and Elliot was interviewed by over a hundred radio stations. Thus was born the political porn paintings which adorn the wall above the bar. Can you spot the bare assed Governor Blago called “Cavity Search,” naked Michelle Bachman holding a tea bag called “Tea Bag Me, or Mitt Romney in his Magic Mormon Underwear? There is also a celebrity wall where there are portraits of all the famous and not so famous Second City stars that used to frequent the pub.