Iconic Winfield tavern closing doors after 96 years
John's Tavern, one of Winfield's oldest businesses, is closing after 96 years.
The popular homestyle restaurant and tavern plans to close its doors Dec. 23 because its downtown property is being sold to Northwestern Medicine, which owns Central DuPage Hospital.
"There's a lot of emotions involved -- good and bad," said John C. Karwoski, grandson of the founder and current owner. "I'll definitely miss it, but I'm 65 and it has become a pretty tough industry."
Northwestern Medicine plans to buy the restaurant property, a neighboring 7-Eleven site and a parking lot between the businesses from John C. Karwoski's father and uncle. The parcels are along Winfield Road, between Jewell and High Lake roads.
John N. Karwoski -- John C's 91-year-old dad -- said he believes it's the right time to sell the land.
"My brother and I are both up in age," John N. Karwoski said. "We figured it was time to wrap things up. We thought it would be a good time to get rid of things."
It's not yet known what Northwestern Medicine will do with the land.
"We plan on working closely with the village of Winfield to develop a Town Center that will be beneficial to the community and support the clinical needs of Central DuPage Hospital," Christopher King, spokesman for Northwestern Medicine, said in an email.
Customers of John's Tavern started learning about the pending closure last week.
Many have responded by visiting the restaurant to enjoy their favorite meals, including burgers, fish tacos, ribs and roast duck.
"We've been very busy," John C. Karwoski said. "If I had known we were going to be as busy as we have been, I probably would have said something a year ago."
John's Tavern has been a part of Winfield since 1921. That year, John T. Karwoski opened an ice cream parlor and barbershop where Winfield's village hall now stands. After the repeal of Prohibition, the ice cream parlor became a bar that also served sandwiches.
In 1947, the business was moved to Winfield and Jewell roads.
John N. Karwoski -- John T's son -- ran the business from 1953 to 1988, nurturing it into one of Winfield's most popular lunch and dinner spots.
"A lot of judges from the county used to go there," John N. Karwoski said. "We were close to the courthouse, so naturally you got a lot of business from there."
Starting in the late 1960s, the tavern was noted for its Dixieland jazz. The live music was a big draw for nearly three decades.
"People came from all over the county to listen to Dixieland," John N. Karwoski said.
In 1988, John C. Karwoski became the third John Karwoski to own the business. When his brother's adjacent liquor store was closed eight years later, the space was used to expand the restaurant.
Through all the changes, including a name change, John C. Karwoski says the key to the establishment's success was its customers.
"It was a friendly environment," he said. "There also was good food at good prices."
While they'll miss the restaurant, the Karwoskis said they hope the deal with Northwestern Medicine will spark redevelopment of downtown Winfield.
"I know that the hospital and the village are going to work together to assemble and create a new transit-oriented development," John C. Karwoski said. "I'm really hoping that everybody will be very happy with it."