'Welcome to Restaurant Row': District Brew Yards coming to Wheeling this summer

Already a hit in Chicago, a second District Brew Yards restaurant and brewery should open this summer on Wheeling's Restaurant Row.

The pour-your-own-beer joint is planned for 700 N. Milwaukee Ave. - the site of the former Ram Restaurant & Brewery that closed in 2019 after 18 years.

"We loved the Ram building," District Brew Yards founder Steve Soble said. "The building sets up beautifully for us."

The village board this week granted a pair of liquor licenses for the operation. One will allow sales of beer and wine to dine-in customers, and the other allows package carryout sales.

Village Manager Jon Sfondilis said filling the 11,668-square-foot building is a significant development for Wheeling.

"It stands right at our gateway (as) a welcome to Restaurant Row," he said.

A building renovation is planned; crews are awaiting construction permits to begin, Soble said.

Supply-chain issues that have frustrated business owners and developers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have delayed the process, he said.

Soble is eyeing late June for a public opening.

Launched in 2019 in the West Town neighborhood, District Brew Yards contains four breweries and a barbecue restaurant called Lillie's Q, as well as a retail store. Dine-in customers are charged by the ounce for beer they pour from wall-mounted taps.

Patrons use special cards, touch screens and card readers to activate the taps.

The Wheeling operation will have more food options, all to be developed by the folks behind Lillie's Q, Soble said.

"We want it to be a brewery meets food hall," he said.

The existing District Brew Yards is for customers 21 or older. The Wheeling branch will allow younger customers accompanied by their parents into the place to eat - but they won't be allowed near the beer-serving area.

That sounds good to Sfondilis, who digs the beer-sampling concept but also appreciates the addition of a new restaurant for families in town.

"This is big for Wheeling," he said.

Village President Patrick Horcher also is eager for the new District Brew Yards to open its doors.

"I really like when we get to try something new that isn't anywhere else (in the suburbs)," he said. "People are exercising their creativity, and I'm happy that they're doing it in Wheeling."

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