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Jack Desmond's Irish Pub now under new ownership

  • Written by Dermot Connolly
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                                                 Photo by Dermot Connolly
Tim Desmond pulls a pint, perhaps for the last time, behind the bar at Jack Desmond's Irish Pub, 10339 S. Ridgeland Ave., which he recently sold after 17 years of ownership.
 
 When Oak Lawn Trustee Tim Desmond (1st) opened Jack Desmond’s Irish Pub in Chicago Ridge 17 years ago, he named it in honor of his father and his eldest son.
 
And although new owners took over last week, the family name is staying on the popular bar and restaurant at 10339 S. Ridgeland Ave.
 
The pub was officially sold last week, to a business group called Matchpoint Inc. The new owners weren’t ready to talk publicly this week, except to say that there are no plans to make any changes to either the menu or the look of the restaurant, which has the look and feel of an authentic Irish pub.
 
Desmond, from Iniscarra, County Cork, may no longer be behind the bar, but the weekend entertainment will also continue to have a distinctly Irish feel for the foreseeable future, especially with St. Patrick’s Day around the corner.
 
“I was 35 when I opened it. I didn’t expect it to be here this long. Seventeen
years is a long time. A lot has changed,” said Desmond, 52, during a casual chat at the
bar last Monday.
 
From the beginning, he sponsored men’s and women’s Gaelic football and
hurling teams that play at Gaelic Park, a few miles south on Ridgeland Avenue in Oak
Forest. He also sponsored the South Side Irish rugby team. So, it became a popular
place for the players to stop in before or after their weekend matches.
 
With party rooms upstairs and downstairs, Desmond's also has become a popular spot to celebrate everything from First Communions and confirmations, to graduations and wedding showers.
 
“It could get loud. But it was always interesting, and a lot of fun. A lot of the local
bands played here first. I am not saying we gave them their start, but they played here
first.
 
Besides the music and the proverbial Guinness and other drinks, something else
that always kept people coming to Desmond’s was the menu. And that is not expected
to change too much either with the new ownership.
 
“Not as many Irish people are moving here as were coming when I arrived in
1986, but I think the Irish-Americans are as Irish as the ones at home now,” he said.
“We’ve changed the menu over the years, taking items on and off. But a few
favorites have always been there—things like the full Irish breakfast (including eggs, sausages, bacon and beans), curry chicken, fish and chips and other dishes popular in Ireland,” he said.
 
Asked if he ever did the cooking himself, Desmond said, only at the beginning.“Thankfully, I have a very good chef now. He’s staying too.”
 
“I think I have been lucky to have very good staff. Some have been with me for 13 years. No one has been here less than six years. That’s unusual in the bar business,” he added.
 
He didn’t say it was a cutthroat business, but knows about them too, having left a job in a slaughterhouse to come to Chicago at age 20 in 1986. “After three years of cutting cows’ throats, I figured there had to me something more to life,” he said with a grin.
 
“I didn’t know the drinking age was 21, I could have waited a month until my birthday in April,” said Desmond, who still has the airline ticket from his flight to Chicago on March 10, 1986.
 
He went on to establish a successful career construction, building homes around Oak Lawn and elsewhere when he decided to get into the bar business as a sideline. When the construction industry was hard-hit by the economic downturn in 2008, he became a stationary engineer, and now works nights at the Lanham Hotel in Chicago.
 
In addition, he was also elected to his second term as a trustee in Oak Lawn last year. He and his wife, Eileen, also have six children, ranging in age from 11 to 21. So, while the pub business grew, Desmond said, “it wasn’t fun anymore.”
 
“There are four or five parties booked here every weekend. The business needed more attention than I could give it.”
 
He said he plans to get back into construction, now that the economy is improving.
“I want to build some new houses in Oak Lawn. The prices are going up there, and there is a shortage of new construction,” said Desmond. “The average-sized houses are more popular now, not the 4,000 sq. ft. McMansions.”
 
Desmond said he and his family also hope to make a trip to Ireland in June, with the Brother Rice rugby team, which his sons, Tim and Aidan, play for. His older sons, Jack and Conor, also played there, before going on to play in college. He and Eileen also have two daughters, Lily and Grace, ages 11 and 12.
 
“Of all of them, Grace was most interested in Desmond’s and didn’t want me to to give it up. She said when she gets old enough, she’ll buy it back,” he said with a smile.

Newman running as ‘true-blue’ Democrat in 3rd District primary

  • Written by Steve Metsch

After more than 135 meet-and-greets, and talking with countless supporters and attending many events over the past year or so, Marie Newman said she is “feeling it.”

“It” would be her pulling off a major political surprise, beating incumbent U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski, who has never lost an election, in the March 20 Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District.

“Holy cats, we are tied in the polls,” she said in a phone interview Sunday. That refutes a recent release from the Lipinski camp, which claims he leads Newman by more than 30 percent in the polls.

“That helps me because there are probably three or four outside pollsters who have us tied. And my field tracking poll has us in a dead heat,” Newman, 53, said.

On the campaign trail, she’s heard from residents who “are very fed up.”

Marie Newman 1

 

               Marie Newman

“He’s done nothing for working families. He’s indicated he’s brought more than $300 million (in federal funds) to the district, but, in reality, he prettied up a train stop in my town (La Grange) that didn’t need to be prettied up. That was $700,000.

“He’s bought fire engines for seven communities that didn’t need new fire engines, so that was millions of dollars in waste. He likes doing what he calls transportation projects for his crony friends. This is how a machine politician operates,” Newman said.

Newman calls herself “a true Democrat” and considers Lipinski more of a Republican disguised as a Democrat. “He’s in alignment on many things with (President) Trump, so that does make sense. He is completely out of step with the district,” she said.

Newman said she’d do more for immigrants, fight for affordable health care for all, defend Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to have an abortion, legalize marijuana, and support gay marriage along with gay rights issues.

“Fifty-two times he’s voted to take away a woman’s right to choose. Most recently, he voted for the abortion ban, which he calls the born alive act. To be clear, the act is an act that would take away abortions after 20 weeks. Less than one percent of all abortions happen after 20 weeks, and it’s always for medical reasons. This is ridiculous legislation we don’t need. It’s the law of the land and he wants to overturn Roe vs. Wade,” Newman said.

She criticized Lipinski for what she says is not supporting Planned Parenthood.

The campaign, she said, is comparable to pushing a boulder uphill. “I’m pushing against the Lipinski monarchy of 36 years and the Chicago machine of 100 years. It’s not a rosy day every day, but it’s very much in my favor. The reason is I’m in alignment with most people in the district, and he’s out of step,” Newman said.

If elected, her priority is “hard work, really hard work on getting health care for all through, $15 per-hour pay, paid leave and affordable child care.”

She’s not in, as Lipinski has charged, “the Tea Party of the Left.”

“There’s just true-blue Democrats. He’s not a centrist. He is a far right Republican and the district is true-blue Democratic,” she added. “We appreciate his service, but he needs to move on. He hasn’t done anything for this district in 13 years and rides on the coattails of his dad, and he lies.”

Lipinski says experience makes him the better choice in 3rd District primary

  • Written by Steve Metsch

A self-described “problem solver,” U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski has a problem on his hands.

It’s the staunch challenge set forth by newcomer Marie Newman, who on March 20 hopes to wrest away the Democratic nomination from the longtime congressman representing the 3rd District.

Some polls have shown the two running very close to one another. Others have shown Lipinski leading. He thinks experience will prevail.

“I’m someone who stands apart in Washington because I’m not a show horse, not someone who likes to throw around insults and make promises I don’t keep,” Lipinski said in a phone interview from his office there.

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               Dan Lipinski

“I’m a problem-solver who brings people together. That has enabled me to deliver for the district, bringing back more than $375 million in federal funds for transportation projects, and I’ve been able to pass legislation to boost manufacturing jobs here,” he added.

The winner of the March 20 primary is expected to easily win the November election over the Republican candidate Art Jones.

Asked about the often-bitter campaign, Lipinski said: “Illinois is second in order for primaries and that brought attention to my race because it’s one of the first (to be voted on).”

Lipinski said some of Newman’s “proposals are very vague and it is hard to know what she means.”

He refuted Newman’s charges that he opposes a woman’s right to choose, that he’s against gay marriage, and opposes Planned Parenthood.

“Ten years ago, I voted to extend federal hate crimes legislation to sexual orientation. I voted to end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ The Supreme Court has determined marriage equality is the law of the land and I’m not doing anything to undo that. However, I’ll make sure we protect religious liberty and people’s beliefs,” he said.

“I don’t believe federal funding should go to help pay for abortions. Planned Parenthood is the No. 1 abortion provider in the country. This does not mean I don’t support contraception,” he said.

At a recent candidate forum, several Newman supporters had posters accusing Lipinski of being a “Democrat in name only.” He called it “a desperate attempt.”

“I’m a Democrat because I think government has an important role to play in helping people out. The most important thing people want is to have the opportunity to have a good-paying job with good benefits. And that I what I have stood for. That’s been my No. 1 priority,” Lipinski said.

The Illinois AFL/CIO has endorsed him along with more than 30 other unions, he said.

He noted that he opposed President Trump’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“And I opposed his tax bill. I have stood up against the Republican policies when it’s been most important.”

Newman represents the “Tea Party of the Left,” he said, adding, “Some want extreme liberals to take over the Democratic Party and that’s bad for the party and bad for the country.”

First on his agenda if re-elected is helping immigrants brought here illegally as children by their parents “get a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.”

He also hopes to reduce costs of the Affordable Care Act, and address infrastructure issues in the district.

Lipinski said he “enjoys helping people out,” noting that his father, former U.S. Rep. Bill Lipinski, often told him said that was the key for elected officials.

“I feel I can still make a difference,” he added.




Grads and current staff celebrate past and future of Northwest School

  • Written by Kelly White

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Photo by Kelly White

Lee Harwig, a 1988 graduate of Northwest Elementary School in Evergreen Park, reminisces about her favorite times at the school while browsing through a 1987-88 yearbook.

Lee Harwig can still vividly recall walking to Northwest Elementary School every morning, just a block and a half away from her childhood home in Evergreen Park.

“My mom used to stand on the sidewalk and watch me walk to school no matter how old I was,” Harwig said. “My parents’ house is still the same. After I married, my husband and I chose to still reside in Evergreen Park.”

Harwig graduated from Northwest, 3630 92nd St, Evergreen Park, in 1988, marking 30 years since she walked the halls at her beloved elementary school.

“When I think about Northwest, I remember the teachers most,” Harwig said. “I remember each teacher I ever had, and I remember the comfort they always gave me. I’m an only child, and did not come from a big family. Leaving my mom to go to school was scary, and the teachers there were always kind and supportive.”

Harwig said social media apps, like Facebook, have made it easy to remain in contact with her former classmates. However, the school’s Mustangs in Action Boosters’ Club is making it even easier to reconnect with a 50th anniversary celebration of Northwest School.

The anniversary event will be held from 7 until 11 p.m. Friday, March 9 at 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W 115th St, Merrionette Park.

Harwig isn’t the only one from the graduating class of 1988 to still love the school to this day. Ann O'Neill Crago recalls with a smile the day her dog, Maggie, followed her as she walked to school.

“My favorite memory of Northwest was when my dog followed me to school in what must have been the first grade,” O’Neill Crago said. “I could see my parents’ house from the school and I would walk every day. That particular day, Maggie actually got into the school because I let her in as I walked in the door. Having Maggie in the building with me caused quite a stir.”

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Photo by Kelly White

Allison Grazevich, a graduate of Northwest Elementary School, said she is proud to have her own fifth grade classroom at her alma mater.


Another graduate of the 1988 class, Johanna Morgan, formerly Johanna Malevitis, of Evergreen Park, attended Northwest along with Harwig and O’Neill Crago. Still residing in the community, she made the decision to send her two children to Northwest as well.

“It only made sense for them to go there since it was where I went and it is a fantastic school,” Morgan said.

Morgan, vice president of the Mustangs in Action Boosters Club, is responsible for organizing a fundraiser for the past three years, along with its other members, and gathering current teachers, parents and alumni together, with all funds going back to benefit the school.

“This year, we decided to combine the annual fundraiser with the 50th anniversary of Northwest,” Morgan said.

The anniversary event is open to everyone who has attended or currently works at Northwest, but with a main focus on the class of 1988, according to Matthew Banach, the Northwest principal.

“Northwest School has been providing a great education to students in the Evergreen Park community for 50 years,” Banach said. “We are thankful for the great students, families, and staff members that have made this school such a special place that inspires and empowers students to not only be academically successful, but to also become good citizens and friends who will be the leaders of tomorrow. The 50th anniversary will allow us to take a step back and celebrate all of the wonderful memories the school has helped create for so many people.”

Tickets for the event are $30 in advance, available through Eventbrite.com, or $35 at the door on the day of the event. Ticket price includes drinks, dinner, and live musical entertainment. A silent auction will also be held. For more information on tickets, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (708) 296-3569.

All funds raised will be going to benefit Northwest. From last year’s fundraiser, the boosters club purchased a rock climbing wall for the school’s gymnasium. The wall and materials totaled $5,465. It stands eight feet tall by 20 feet wide and it was installed over the summer. The wall was ready to go by the start of school in August.

A decision has not yet been made on how the 2018 funds will be applied. However, the boosters club in the past has also paid for buses for school field trips, school parities and purchased a water fountain.

Current teachers are looking forward to the anniversary event as well, including fifth grade teacher Allison Grazevich, who graduated from Northwest in 2006.

“I feel that Northwest has become so well-rounded; the school interacts with parents and the community as well as students,” said Grazevich, 24, of Evergreen Park. “I also love to see that Northwest has carried on so many traditions that I remember participating in. I love sharing with students that I was once in their position and loved Northwest School so much that I came back to teach here.”

Big bucks at work in 3rd District race between Lipinski, Newman

  • Written by Bob Bong

Campaign spending is ratcheting up and may top $2 million as the race between incumbent U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski and challenger Marie Newman in the 3rd Congressional District heads into its final weeks.

Lipinski had more than $1.6 million in his war chest at the end of 2017, according to his filing with the Federal Election Commission. That was almost twice what he raised for his 2016 and 2014 campaigns, respectively. He spent a little more than $600,000 in each of those election cycles.

The filing showed that his committee had expenditures of just under $85,000 during the fourth quarter.

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         Cong. Dan Lipinski

As the campaign draws into its pivotal weeks, Lipinski will be spending a chunk of that cash on direct mailings to voters as well as television and radio ads, Isaac Sancken, his director of communications, said in an email.

It’s not unusual for incumbents to raise more money than challengers, and Newman, his opponent in the March 20 Democratic primary, had only $236,000 on hand at the end of December. That included a hefty $100,000 of her own money.

Newman's campaign expenses during the fourth quarter totaled about $123,000, according to the filing.

Her campaign received a major shot in the arm last week after she appeared at a forum with Lipinski that was sponsored by the League of Women Voters at Moraine Valley Community College.

A coalition of progressive groups led by NARAL Pro-Choice America announced it would spend more than $1 million on political ads for Newman in the days leading up to the primary.

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          Marie Newman

Joining NARAL were the Human Rights Campaign, SEIU, MoveOn, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and EMILY's List. They said they would work together to educate voters about what they call Lipinski's poor record and promote Newman.

In its announcement, the group said Lipinski had voted to block his constituents from care at Planned Parenthood and ban abortions, opposed marriage equality, opposed raising the minimum wage to $15/hour and voted against the Affordable Care Act.

Their campaign will include direct mail, digital persuasion ads, peer-to-peer texting and TV ads. The first mailing was scheduled to go out last week and its first TV ads were also supposed to begin airing last week.

"Dan Lipinski is way out of step with his constituents and has repeatedly voted against women's rights, LGBTQ equality, workers and the basic freedoms that his constituents, and all Americans, hold dear," said Mitchell Stille, NARAL's National Campaign Director. "This unprecedented coalition will work every day between now and primary day to ensure voters know Dan Lipinski's real record."

Joanna Klonsky, Newman’s director of communications, said she couldn’t comment on what NARAL and the other groups were planning.

But she did say her campaign “was receiving tons of grassroots energy.”

“It’s definitely great to have that kind of support,” she said.

The 3rd District generally runs southwest from Chicago’s Midway Airport area to Crest Hill and Lockport in the suburbs. It stretches from Lyons and Stickney on the north to Orland Hills on the south and from Oak Lawn on the east to Romeoville on the west.