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Railroad-themed bourbon bar plans for late spring opening in Crystal Lake

A railroad-themed bar, The Junction Bourbon and Bites, could be coming soon to downtown Crystal Lake in the empty space at 88 Railroad St., which also houses recently relocated Moontime Smokin’ Que.

Details, including preliminary renderings, were part of a request submitted by the owners for a parking variation submitted to the Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Commission ahead of its meeting Wednesday.

Plans for a 20-seat outdoor patio, which would involve removing five parking spaces, received light pushback from the commission but was ultimately recommended on a 5-2 vote. It will now be considered by the Crystal Lake City Council on April 19.

Outdoor dining was important for the proposal as it would help “bring a sense of community” in a “light airy atmosphere” for the cocktail bar, said co-owner Jim Tomasek, who also owns Cantina 52, also in downtown Crystal Lake. His partner is Paul Leech, who also owns and operates Jude’s cocktail bar, the Cottage and Hickory Hall.

Tomasek initially announced the concept at the City Council meeting in March, describing it as a “hip and on trend” bar that would offer food and a variety of bourbon cocktails. But the real draw could be the “train car feel” the bar aims to emulate, complete with decor, murals, and historic photos from city’s Metra station, Tomasek said.

“It will feel like you are dining in a train car at the train station,” Tomasek said.

Moontime Smokin' Que is located at 88 Railroad St., Unit A, Crystal Lake, across the street from the downtown Metra station.

Moontime Smokin’ Que is located at 88 Railroad St., Unit A, Crystal Lake, across the street from the downtown Metra station. (Mystery Diner/)

The bar received approval for a liquor license and $10,000 in a retailer facade and commercial tenant improvement grant from the Crystal Lake City Council last month.

Ryan Zambon, the managing partner for neighboring Matt’s Tavern, said he was not opposed to adding outdoor seating in general but was concerned about parking overall as the downtown area adds businesses. Zambon suggested Railroad Street open up to public parking, as opposed to being restricted for Metra parking.

Although the goal was to open the bar at the end of April, Tomasek said interior design details were still being considered and the goal is still to open later in the spring.

“We look forward to enhancing the downtown district by adding this location to others,” Tomasek said. “We hope to make downtown even more of a destination than it already is.”

A new railroad-themed bar and restaurant, The Junction, is planned for 88 Railroad Street in Crystal Lake.

Renderings showing the outdoor patio at a new railroad-themed bar and restaurant, The Junction, which is planned for 88 Railroad St. in Crystal Lake. (Provided by Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Commission/)

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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