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News / Harmless Fun

A timeline of going out to a Chicago 4am bar

A timeline of going out to a Chicago 4am bar
Photograph: Martha Williams

Chicago's 4am bars are a lot like black holes—their patrons don't really know much about them other than the fact that once they step foot in the building their dignity, shame and memory of the night never manage to escape. Despite being a long-time staple of Chicago nightlife, the inside happenings of 4am bars remain a mystery to the true party animals who simply can't stop, won't stop at 2am. Fortunately, this brave blogger has put countless hours into the rigorous study of what drives Chicagoans to drink until (nearly) sunrise, and the events that take place while we do so. I have found that the night usually follows a timeline similar to this one.

1:15am: The bar that you've been at since happy hour makes the last call for alcohol, and the waiter who has had the misfortune of serving you all night closes out your tab. Despite having this puritanical establishment cut off service so early, you remain calm because you know the night is just getting started. You round up your friends, who have already ordered an Uber and picked out a destination, and head out to a 4am bar to keep the party rolling.

1:45am: You arrive to the 4am bar and see that a line has already formed down the block. Shockingly, you and your friends are not the only people in the city who had the brilliant idea of getting to the bar early to try and beat the crowds. While waiting at the end of the line, you take turns drinking liquor from a water bottle with the shady guy standing in front of you.

2:05am: You flash the bouncer your ID and walk into the bar. "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here," as they say. Inexplicably, you put on your sunglasses so you can look cool, only to run into everyone everything inside the dark bar because you can't see.

2:10am: Looking to make a good first impression, you buy a round of drinks for a group of people to show everyone that you are a baller who exclusively makes power moves. This move does not earn you the respect of anyone in the bar; in fact, everyone takes note of your generosity and plans to take advantage of it later.

2:30am: Time to hit the dance floor. You bust a move and try to dance with a stranger, hoping to look like John Travolta and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. Unfortunately, you are not that smooth. Instead, you look like an inflatable tube man, and your partner runs and hides from you.

2:40am: You locate the jukebox and start playing hits by beloved musical acts such as Limp Bizkit, Rammstein and Creed. Even though you have earned the ire of everyone in the bar, you stay deaf to the haters and keep your ears focused to the music while you headbang.

2:45am: Hey, you know what sounds like a good idea right now? Shots of Fireball!

2:50am: You narrowly avoid stepping in a pile of puke. You congratulate yourself on this accomplishment by buying yourself another beer.

2:55am: You make friends with a stranger, talking with them for several minutes as if you've known each other forever. You bond over your mutual interests and even share a cigarette outside, despite the fact that you don't smoke. You tell them you should hang out as you part ways, only to completely forget about them 10 seconds later.

3:15am: You realize that the night is almost over and you have yet to find a companion to accompany you home. Desperate, you scout the area for potential suitors and approach them with your usual grace and charm. That is to say, you spout garbled nonsense until they walk away from you.

3:30am: Broken and defeated after having your advances rejected by everyone in the bar while all your friends make out with strangers on the dance floor, you head to the bathroom and throw up. Then, you find a nice comfy spot on the wet tile floor to lie down on and take a little snooze.

3:50am: You wake up to a bouncer grabbing you off the bathroom floor and kicking you out. You attempt to fight the bouncer in your drunken haze, only to have him pick you up and throw you onto the pavement outside.

3:55am: You fail at trying to sneak back in the bar.

4:00am: The bar is closed! You hop in one of the many taxis on the street and head home to make yourself some drunk food as a reward for making it through the night without getting arrested or seriously hurt in a brawl caused by your own doing. Congratulations, you resilient party trooper. You earned it.



Stuart R

This is the most idiotic 4am timetable ever.  

Tim H

No no no. 4:00 AM you go to a 24-hour diner like Melrose and have the Chicken Liver and Onion Omelette. Or so I've been told I've done that before.