'Back to the roots': Durty Nellie's owner hopeful about downsizing to a little Irish pub again

Durty Nellie's isn't quite ready to go gentle into that good night.

Plans to tear down the downtown Palatine nightspot's longtime home to make way for a new, six-story building is a chance to bring the establishment back to its Irish pub roots, said Jim Dolezal, who co-owns the business with brother Mark.

“We've been here so long,” he said. “I'm not ready to call it a day yet.”

Last month, the Dolezals announced a proposal to raze the venue at 180 N. Smith St. — Durty Nellie's home since 2003 — and replace it with a six-story, 85-unit apartment building.

The new building would include ground-floor space for businesses, including 3,500 square feet for a new Durty Nellie's. That's far less than a quarter of the 18,000 square feet it currently occupies. Plans also are in the works for a rooftop element to the new pub.

The project is awaiting final approval from the village of Palatine, but Jim Dolezal sees it as an opportunity to “get back to the roots, kind of where Nellie's got its start in the old place right down the street.”

That old place is the original Nellie's, which opened on St. Patrick's Day 1972 at 55 N. Bothwell St., a site that previously was home to a stable, a speak-easy, a bowling alley and an ice cream parlor.

Dolezal said it is important to maintain the legacy of the pub, which has been in his family's hands since 1988.

While the current location — which remains open and will host St. Patrick's Day festivities in 2024 — allowed the pub to host some top music acts, the space has become too big, its owners say.

“We were definitely excited about the move here, and the first 10-plus years we did really well,” Dolezal said.

But the business struggled after a 2019 fire forced a long-term closure and was soon followed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Developer Jonathan Payne and architect Jim Tinaglia entered the picture with a concept that would allow a re-imagined Durty Nellie's at the same location, but with less space to fill.

“It was a way to kind of downsize and stay in the business,” Dolezal said.

“Mark and Jimmy want to continue Durty Nellie's and want to continue to have a presence,” Payne has said.

Tinaglia said the new venue will be more like Peggy Kinnane's in downtown Arlington Heights. Dolezal sees “good things” on the horizon.

“It's kind of a win-win when you have tenants upstairs coming down and enjoying things going on,” he said. “You have a built-in crowd. I think it's going to be a positive situation.”

  A sign outside Durty Nellie's lets the public know that the iconic Palatine pub isn't going away anytime soon. John Starks/
This rendering shows the six-story, mixed-use building that would include a much smaller version of Durty Nellie's bar in Palatine. Courtesy of Tinaglia Architects
  Despite an announcement about plans to tear it down to make way for a new apartment building,. Durty Nellie's remains open for now in downtown Palatine. Brian Hill/, April 2023
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