You may recall the poignant post Mike wrote last year eulogizing Hackney’s, our favorite local tavern. Their seemingly sudden decision to close last September took regulars like us by surprise, and a well-written article in this week’s New City helps explain the owners’ thinking. From the article:
Back in 2008, the owners Jim and Ed Hebson and their cousin Jim Masterson, had been inspired by some of the Mexican Americans on the Hackney’s staff and opened the fast-casual Flaco’s Tacos a couple doors down. It was a rapid success, encouraging them to open more locations on the North Side.
Hackney’s was doing fine during those years, too, but the article quotes owner Jim Hebson about seeing the writing on the wall. “We’d watch the college kids stream by our door on the way to Flaco’s…”
A place like Flaco’s Tacos is much, much less labor-intensive than a bar and full service restaurant like Hackney’s, where oodles of wait staff and bartenders took our orders. So Hackney’s closed down for eight months, remodeled, and will open soon as Hax.
Ulrich Sandmeyer, of Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, used to tell customers who bought one of my books that if they wanted it autographed they could probably find me at my office. He’d point across the street at Hackney’s, and from time to time readers would show up at the bar and ask me to sign. Not anymore, though: the only “bar” at revamped Hax will be the counter where you stand in line to order burgers or sandwiches. You’ll order, find somewhere to sit, and then staff will deliver your meal to your table. The article says ten local beers will be on tap along with a “signature frozen drink,” but there won’t be any bartenders.
So it won’t be our beloved Hackney’s anymore, but eyebrows up! The article says the new Hax will be open all day, seating will include couches and booths, and they’ll be serving breakfast and coffee in the morning, too. “We want people to hang out all day here, working on their laptops,” owner Jim Hebson told the reporter.
Uh-oh. Be careful what you wish for, Jim! I do a fair amount of my writing and editing in the morning at coffeeshops. You may find me sitting comfortably on a favorite couch at the new place in the mornings as often as you used to see me perched on my favorite “office” bar stool at night.
All the events coming up to celebrate my new book are reminding me of the parties we had years ago when my children’s book Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound was published. I’ll leave you here with an excerpt from Writing Out Loud from a chapter about appearing at the 2009 Printer’s Row Book Fair:
Our favorite bartender, Billy Balducci, will be tending bar at Hackney’s that day. “Flo’s coming here afterwards, right?” He doesn’t mean it as a question. It’s a command. “I’ll save her a seat.”
That’s crazy. Printers Row Book Fair is second only to St. Patrick’s Day when it comes to crowds at Hackney’s. “I’ll reserve a seat for Flo all day until she gets here,” he insists. “I’m all about Flo.”
The chapter goes on to describe my presentation at the 2009 Printers Row Book Fair and ends up at, guess where? Hackney’s.
Our crew —me and Hanni, Flo and her walker and all—thread our way through thousands of book lovers to the entry to Hackney’s.
There it is. A seat. A veritable throne, which Billy has guarded for Flo.
Eventually seats open next to Queen Mom, and we all get to hunker down around her. Predictably, Billy charms Flo, who transforms rather easily from shy and matronly great-grandmother to giggly schoolgirl. Billy is good on his word.