Emmit’s Irish Pub housed a mobster bank and hiding place
Though Emmit’s opened in 1996, the building at Grand, Milwaukee, and Halsted has officially housed a tavern since 1934, the year after Prohibition ended. Built during the 1890s, the site formerly housed a savings and trust catering to Chicago’s mafia, during which time tunnels were purportedly dug from the building to other buildings in the neighborhood to serve as hideaways or escape routes.
Following Prohibition, a series of unsuccessful taverns opened at the site as the once-thriving neighborhood declined. In 1981, three partners bought the building and opened O’Sullivan’s Public House, which became a popular hangout for cops. Two would-be robbers were shot to death in the bar in 1985, not knowing they were up against Chicago’s (off-duty) finest. The bar was also reportedly known for dwarf tossing, though Mayor Harold Washington purportedly shut that down. The colorful O’Sullivan’s closed 1989 and remained vacant till 1993 when current owners (and firemen) Kevin Doherty and Ron Halvorsen bought and rehabbed the bar. Emmit’s has appeared in such films as Ocean’s Eleven, Backdraft, and Uncle Buck.
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Maggie Hennessy is a freelance food + drink writer and chef who loves nothing more than a great food story (except maybe eating). Follow her latest meals and musings on Twitter, Instagram and at maggiehennessy.com.