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Chicago's Berghoff Restaurant closing after more than 100 years.

AP--It's hard not to feel a sense of Chicago's history inside the 107-year-old Berghoff Restaurant, where hand-painted murals depict the 1893 World's Fair and the city's first post-Prohibition liquor license proudly hangs.

But in a few months The Berghoff--one of this food-loving city's oldest and most beloved restaurants--will become history itself, leaving its devoted patrons crying in their German lager.

Owner Herman Berghoff, 70, has announced that he and his wife, Jan, will close the restaurant in February.

"You just don't get places like this anymore," said 65-year-old Peter Schauer, a German immigrant and Berghoff regular for more than 40 years. He stood sipping a dark red beer last week while tapping the restaurant's polished oak bar. "It really reminds you of the old country. It is solid."

Herman Joseph Berghoff, a German immigrant, and his three brothers began brewing Berghoff Beer in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1887.

Berghoff's grandfather, German immigrant Herman Joseph Berghoff, opened the restaurant in 1898, one door down from its current location in the heart of Chicago's Loop. He served free sandwiches to lure men to belly up for 5-cent steins of his Dortmunder-style beer.

His brew, made in Indiana with his brothers, was sold to fairgoers at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.

During Prohibition, Berghoff served near beer and Bergo Soda Pop, but the slide in alcohol sales forced its expansion into a full-service restaurant.

The Berghoff Bar served beer and hand-carved corned beef sandwiches to an all-male clientele for decades--until 1969, when women from the National Organization for Women stormed in and demanded to be served drinks. They were.

"It was a bastion for men, and some of them thought, 'Hell this is our place.' But it had to change," Herman Berghoff told the Chicago Tribune in 1985.

A line thick with tourists stood under the restaurant's bright red neon sign Wednesday evening, waiting for a seat in the dining room decked with glistening Christmas decorations.

"I'm just stunned that it's closing," said John McGuire, 67, of St. Louis, who said he visited The Berghoff's bar every weekend while studying at the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1950s. "I couldn't afford to eat here, but I'd save my money to buy beer because it was such a famous place."

The Berghoff will close for good Feb. 28, when the building will be leased to a catering company run by Herman and Jan Berghoff's daughter. "We share the sadness that many feel about the closing of the restaurant," Herman Berghoff said in a statement. "It's been an honor to be part of the fabric of Chicago."

Its closing leaves "a small hole in the heart of the Loop," (the section of Chicago's downtown bordered by the elevated train tracks), said Ty Tabing, the director of the Chicago Loop Alliance.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Geographic Code:1U3IL
Date:Jan 2, 2006
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