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Hamburger Mary’s and microbrewery targeting Pleasant District office buildings in Oak Park

Updated: April 14, 2014 4:50PM

The owners of Hamburger Mary’s in Chicago plan to spend $1 million to convert two office buildings in the Pleasant District on the west edge of Oak Park into a restaurant and microbrewery, a village official says.

Ashley and Brandon Wright, owners of the Chicago franchise of the international chain, will likely hire 40 to 50 employees to operate the combination restaurant and brewery at 1111-1113 South Boulevard, said Loretta Daly, business services manager for Oak Park.

“We’re hopeful they will open later this year,” said Sara Faust, president of the Oak Park Development Corporation, which worked with the Wrights and the village to broker the proposal.

The Oak Park Hamburger Mary’s, combined with the Oak Park Brewing Company, will seat between 150 and 200 people, Daly said. The Wrights are considering creating an event space on the second floor, she said.

The Wright brothers, who are twins, could not be reached for comment. Hamburger Mary’s hosts drag shows and other events at its Chicago location. The restaurant has brewed its own beer since 2009.

Oak Park Village Board was scheduled to vote on granting a liquor license for the Oak Park project at its Jan. 6 meeting, but the meeting was canceled due to sub-zero temperatures.

If granted, the liquor license would be contingent upon execution of a lease or purchase of the site and execution of the development plan, Faust said.

Faust denied a published report that the brewery and restaurant have completed all regulatory requirements needed to begin work on the building.

“I did not say that,” she said. “I said the village has been exceedingly responsive and efficient in going through the regulatory process to work with the development corporation, and that the applicant has been very responsive, too. Obviously, a lot needs to be done before building permits are issued.”

Because the site is currently occupied by office buildings, “substantial renovation” will be necessary to convert them into a restaurant and microbrewery, Faust said.

“We’ve all worked very hard to get to this point,” she said of the proposed deal. “We’re very excited.”

Since the board created a liquor license category for brewpubs in November, several microbreweries, including some already operating in Chicago, have expressed interest in opening facilities in Oak Park, Faust said.

“We have been talking to more than one,” she said. “This industry is growing, and it fits well in Oak Park.”

The Wright brothers announced in November their plans to open a Hamburger Mary’s in Oak Park that would also operate as a microbrewery.

In a prepared statement released by the Development Corporation, Ashley Wright said the Oak Park area has “an appetite for good food” and a “strong market here for good beer.”

Hamburger Mary’s, an international chain, first opened in 1972 in the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco, the release said.

“With humble beginnings as an eclectic late-night beer and burger joint, Hamburger Mary’s quickly established itself as a staple in the community,” it said.

Today the chain operates 12 franchises nationwide and one in Berlin, Germany, the release said.

Oak Park will embrace the new brewpub for its commitment to green environmental practices, charitable efforts, family-friendly environment, and involvement with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual community, Faust said in the release.

“It will be a substantial investment and the owners’ commitment to the community is commendable,” she said.

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