Owned by River Forest resident Jon Smith and Oak Parker Chris Neville, the Berwyn-based bar and music venue Wire is up for sale. Closed since March due to COVID-19, the owners have been “drained” by building expenses and lack of revenue.
“It’s a little bit heartbreaking,” said Neville.
Wire opened in 2013 and, according to Neville, went through its fair share of struggles to establish itself. The needle had just found its groove when the pandemic hit.
“We were really starting to grow and kind of come up,” said Neville. “And then of course we got shutdown.”
The objective behind opening Wire was to foster and develop the community’s music scene. Neville cited close personal friend Bill FitzGerald as one of his inspirations. FitzGerald and his family founded FitzGerald’s, Berwyn’s famous music venue and nightclub.
“While I love FitzGerald’s, they cater to a certain musical genre and there were a lot of other styles that just weren’t really represented around here,” said Neville.
Wire featured a wide array of different artists and musical styles. It also served to educate others. Its School of Music and Technology offered instruction to students of all experience levels.
“It was pretty successful,” said Neville. “It was a great place. I hope it will be a great place again.”
Taking inspiration from FitzGerald once again, Smith and Neville hope to sell Wire to people who intend to keep running it as a music venue. Shortly after the club’s 40th anniversary, FitzGerald sold his namesake nightclub in early 2020 to Chicago restaurateur Will Duncan, who has kept FitzGerald’s going throughout the pandemic.
“We’re trying to sell not just the building, but the business,” said Neville. “We’d like to see someone take up the reins and I think that’s what Berwyn would like to see happen too.”
The high-ceilinged property has a large performance space, with a balcony in the front and an apartment and classrooms in the back. For now, according to Neville, everything, including lighting and bar equipment, are included in the sale.
Interested parties have already been reaching out, according to Neville, who couldn’t give any specifics for fear of derailing a potential sale.
“We’ve had a couple nibbles from people who are interested in the music club thing,” said Neville. “Obviously, Jon and I are going to help whoever comes to the forefront and help them get situated and do whatever we can to make it work.”
Neville is a musician, while Smith is a recording engineer. Wire’s closure has allowed Neville more time to focus on his own musical career – a bittersweet twist.
“While I’m sad about the whole situation, I can’t let that hold me from moving forward,” he said.
Still, Neville will miss a lot – from Wire’s excellent staff to the music hall’s loyal patrons and the tightknit bunch of musicians who performed there.
“What I’m really going to miss the most is just the community of it all.”