Prohibition-Style The Hyde Opens in Chicago As a No-Phone Zone

Jovanis Bouargoub knows we’re all hopelessly addicted to our smartphones, stealing moments here and there to mindlessly scroll, text, tweet – he gets it. It’s just, if he sees your head buried in the glow of a digital screen while you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself inside his new bar The Hyde – a Prohibition-themed speakeasy that just opened in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood – you’re getting thrown out, buddy, because them’s the rules.


“The rules” being the helpful list of do’s and don’ts, what’s allowed and what’s not, that’s tacked to the door of the bar at 5115 S. Harper Ave. They proclaim, among other things: No cell phones. No Cubs fans. No MAGA hat-wearing Trump supporters. A list that, you can already imagine, has garnered the bar some nasty Yelp reviews from members of the public who bristle at the exclusivity. Which of course misses the point. To a certain bar owner, like Jovanis, visiting his establishment is supposed to be something of an event. You’re meant to dress up here. To actually make an effort. To come in, decked out to the nines and actually be present and be in the moment, without keeping an eye out for something to capture for the ‘gram.

In those situations, as Jovanis tells it, it’s just “your body there without the mind. Here, we want you to focus on the people you’re with. To walk away and remember that I enjoyed the conversation, the music was good, the food was good – not texting back and forth, checking your social media. We’re all suffering from that. We all have that same problem.”


But not here you don’t. Here, the dress code is 1920s to 1950s-era chic (Which is why it doesn’t make sense to also come in with something like a ball cap or pro-Trump garb). If you follow the rules, you’ll get to partake from a menu that includes more than 100 cognacs, plus bourbon, gin, wine and locally produced craft beer. “We’re going to have a huge selection of cognacs from all over the world,” Jovanis says. “And the thing is, there’ll be a secret door with a password to get in. You’ll have to message us and request the code, and then we’ll tell you what we need from you.”

Messaging the bar is done via Instagram, where you can follow the bar’s profile @thehydechi. Once you’re in, you’ll be greeted by a venue with old-fashioned furnishings, brick walls decorated with Prohibition-era photos of Chicago people and landmarks, not to mention live music and staff in period dress. “We want to make you remember us,” Jovanis says, “by you having a good time and all the memorable things you did at the place.”


It’s certainly a noble pursuit, opening a place that refuses to adhere to the norms of the digerati in our social-media-obsessed world. Where status isn’t measured in the likes and eyeballs attracted to a performative repositioning of one’s self for a digital audience, where filters don’t matter because you can’t use your phone here anyway. It’s all about the drinks, the food, the moments and the memories. And, heck, if you find yourself a little unsure of how to act or behave, just refer back to the rules on the door. Like Rule #3, about not asking the bartender to make a particular drink extra strong. Instead, just “order a double.” Oh, and especially don’t forget Rule #14. It seems there’s a $50 fine “for bitching.”

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