The History of Nisei Lounge, Est. 1951



This much is known about Nisei Lounge:

  • It is Chicago’s finest dive bar
  • It is conveniently located one block south of America’s best ballpark - Wrigley Field
  • It is pronounced “Knee - Say”

Everything else about Nisei Lounge’s history is rumor, innuendo, and conjecture.

Legend, and a few guidebooks, say Nisei Lounge was founded by second generation Japanese immigrants in 1951 to provide a spot for Chicago’s Japanese-American community to socialize over a few drinks.  It may or may not have been located at Clark and Division from 1949 to 1951 until moving in 1951 to it’s current location in historic Links Hall (built in 1921 - just 7 years after Wrigley Field). 

We have the finest free-lance historians that money (or at least a generous bar tab) can hire scouring City records for more information.

Whether any of those immortal 1970 Cubs like Jim Hickman, Cleo James, and Johnny Callison ever drank here we don’t know.  But we’d like to think they stopped in, maybe with some of their more talented teammates, or with Hall of Fame Cubs clubhouse manager Yosh Kawano.

On February 1st, 2004 the building’s boiler exploded in mid-winter and the bar had to close for a few days.  The owners at the time used their settlement from the landlord to apply a badly needed coat of paint.  Otherwise the Nisei’s classic Chicago dive interior is much as it was nearly six decades ago.

The dartboards, pool table and jukebox are all still there and are thriving more than ever.



In 2008 rumors abounded that the bar was to be sold, gutted, and reopened as just another sports bar in a neighborhood already generously supplied with sports bars.  It was a fate worse than a White Sox World Series.  Happily that deal fell through and a year later, after falling just $899,800,162.00 short in their attempt to buy the Chicago Cubs, two friends decided to roll the dice, and buy Wrigleyville’s oldest dive bar.  If you can't buy Wrigley Field then a bar at Sheffield and Clark is the next best thing.

And on April 1st, 2010 - the date just seemed right - they got the keys, a keg cooler, three refrigerators, an eight line tap, and bragging rights to Wrigleyville’s oldest continuous liquor license.

After an intensive crash course in bar management consisting of a quick skim through “The Dummies Guide to Bar Management”, and a marathon weekend viewing session of “Cheers: The Complete First and Second Season” and “Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season One” they opened Nisei for the latest chapter in it’s storied (and the stories get better after a few cold ones) history.

As the 2010 Cubs baseball season takes stride, Wrigleyville’s oldest bar and it’s newest bar owners are ready to keep welcoming it’s colorful cadre of regulars, it’s neighbors, the best damn fans in baseball - Cubs fans, and even fans of visiting teams making their pilgrimage to Wrigley Field (It’s True - Nisei Lounge welcomes all visiting team fans.  Bring Money).

And yes there have been some improvements - 5 new flatscreen TVs are installed.  The regulars were tired of gathering around the 8 inch tube TVs to watch games.  And new toilets were installed in the bathrooms - as we believe they were the original 1951 toilets and needed an upgrade.  And don't forget we now take credit cards!  Other than that expect the same place everyone has grown to love over the past 59 years.

Nisei Lounge - A Glimpse in History

Please download the file below to learn more about the rich history of Nisei as a home to the local Japanese Community to its present day fixture in the local community.

Nisei Lounge Walk Through History (pdf)