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Steppenwolf and Boka to open new café/bar/theater

Written by
Kris Vire

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is teaming up with Boka Restaurant Group to open a café and bar adjacent to Steppenwolf's lobby. The new development will also include a previously announced 80-seat black box theater, effectively taking the place of the Steppenwolf Garage space, which will be repurposed as a rehearsal and event space following this spring's run of the Gift Theatre's Richard III.

Boka, which operates its namesake restaurant and Balena on the same block of Halsted Street as Steppenwolf (along with other high-profile restaurants like Girl & the Goat, Perennial Virant and GT Fish & Oyster), is serving as a conceptual consultant on the café and bar, which will be operated by the theater. The as-yet-unnamed spot will feature La Colombe coffee and tea during the day and a full bar in the evening, with a food menu by Balena and Swift & Sons chef Chris Pandel.

The café will face Halsted Street on the ground floor of the former Ethan Allen furniture store just north of Steppenwolf's main building, with the new theater in the rear. Steppenwolf has already converted the building's upper floor into office space, which it moved into in 2014. The opening dates for the café and theater aren't yet announced, but both are expected to be ready by spring.

In a recent interview (to appear in our March print edition), Steppenwolf's new artistic director Anna D. Shapiro hinted at plans to expand programming in the 2016–17 season—the first slate she'll select—beyond the current five mainstage and two Steppenwolf for Young Adults productions. A new theater space in the main building would seem to play nicely into those goals. A further expansion on the site of the current parking lot and garage to the south of the main building, to include a new 400-seat theater and an atrium termed "The Public Square," is still some years away.

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