Co-owner Cody Modeer says he hopes his new bar, Ward Eight, will be place for “good drinks and good conversation.”
Located at 629 Howard St. in Evanston, the new cocktail bar and small plates restaurant held a grand opening this past Tuesday, Dec. 12.
“We want it to be a community type bar,” explained Modeer, who opened Ward Eight along with his wife, Anne Carlson. “We want people that are intellectuals, like the old artist bars in Paris.”
Standing behind the bar with their one-year-old daughter, Keira, in his arms, Modeer said he had seen plenty of patrons from the neighborhood since the bar held a soft opening a week and a half ago. He and Carlson both worked as bartenders at In Fine Spirits in Andersonville, and once they got behind the bar at Ward Eight, Modeer said, everything fell into place.
“Anne and I have been doing this so long, it was kind of natural, like we were working in somebody else’s bar,” he said.
To give the bar a community feel, Modeer plans to host rotating arts exhibits and eventually hopes to show movies in the back. As for the alcohol, he said the pair will focus on quality local spirits. Eighty percent of their alcohol choices are local, he said, including spirits from Evanston-based FEW Spirits and North Shore Distillery in Lake Bluff.
Ald Ann Rainey, who oversees the eighth ward where the business is located, predicted that the bar would be very popular.
“I’ve been here three times—standing room only,” Rainey said. “The cocktails are spectacular, and the owners are very engaging.”
Ward Eight is one of the businesses that have benefited from tax-increment financing (TIF) along Howard Street, in an area that was designated as a TIF district in 2004. Council members voted in February to spend up to $100,000 in tax increment financing for improvements to the building where Ward Eight is located. The city also agreed to loan Ward Eight $130,000 toward setup costs as part of a Community Development Block Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Neighbors along Howard Street said they were happy to see the upscale establishment move in on a street with several vacancies.
“We see a big change coming through on Howard Street,” said Lucy Hilaire, a 23-year-Evanston resident and Howard Street business owner. “A change for the better.”
Fellow Evanston resident Doug Lasch said the business was great news on Howard Street.
“It’s nice to see it getting a little upscale,” Lasch said. “I think that’s going to help spur development along the street.”