FitzGerald’s On The Block


ole for more than 40 years; it’s been a Windy City institution. But owner Bill FitzGerald has stepped down as the club’s talent buyer and subsequently announced the club is for sale.

FitzGerald has handed talent buying duties over to Donnie Biggins, and the venue sale to a broker, according to the Chicago Tribune.

He first bought the roughly 350-capacity room called the Deer Lodge for $60,000 in 1980 when he was still in his late 20’s. He had already been a customer of the joint with “deer heads and velour on the walls and Herb Alpert and classic country on the jukebox,” according to the Tribune.

Over time, the previous owner’s one-room living space behind the stage becomes FitzGerald’s office and dressing room for bands, according to the Tribune.

In time FitzGerald’s also spun off another Chicago institution – the American Music  Festival, now a Fourth of July weekend tradition. Some of the best known names in American roots music have played both the club and the festival.

Dave Alvin told the paper he made a point to be at this year’s American Music Festival in case it was the last one.

“I played that stage with a lot of my friends who are dead,” Alvin told the paper. “So anytime I go on that stage I feel like I am connecting with my old friends, as nutty as that sounds. To have that taken away, it’s almost like a death in the family.”

Others to take the stage in recent months include artists ranging fom psych-polka outfit Brave Combo, Robbie Fulks, Jason Isbell, Tom Russell, Marshall Crenshaw, Alejandro Escovedo, Peter Case, and Band of Heathens.

FitzGerald has hired broker Tim Rasmussen of SVN Restaurant Resource Group, who successfully sold

“It’s not like selling a restaurant in Lincoln Park or the West Loop,” Rasmussen to the paper. “You have to thread the needle and find somebody that’s got a love of the music … and appreciates what they’ve built over the last 37 years. I liken it to selling a piece of art or an antique. Its value isn’t just in the financial performance or the underlying real estate assets. It’s the totality, kind of the cultural thing that it provides the city.”