Shinnick’s Pub: Family-owned for more than 80 years, still a staple in Bridgeport

Chicago Scene

“We’re a neighborhood bar, our neighbors and our friends in the neighborhood are the reason we’re still here” said Terry Shinnick. He’s the part of 9 kids that believe in that neighborhood philosophy that’s kept Shinnick’s Pub in business since 1938.  The full story starts years before the building at 38th and Union donned the Shinnick name.

The modest brick two flat was constructed in the late 1880s ahead Chicago’s Worlds Columbian Exposition in 1893.  The bulk of its early history was under the tutelage of Shallow family.  The bar, complete with a Brunswick-Balke-Collender (that still exists today), gave folks visiting the neighboring fair in 1893 a rest bit in the travels to the White City. The Brunswick back bar is one of only a handful left in the word, providing a gateway into Chicago’s storied past. Ownership changed hands a few times but the bulk of the ownership was the Shallow family until 1938. 

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The start of the Shinnick story starts after prohibition was repealed. George and Mary (Healy) Shinnick took over the bar in 1938. Down the street from Al Capone’s famed Manhattan Brewing Company, the Shinnick name went up on the building at 3758 S. Union Ave.  There, ownership transferred from George Sr and Mary to George Jr. and Celine (Dougherty) in 1966 with a plan.  A business plan that paid off 9 times.  Raising nine kids in the Bridgeport neighborhood George Jr and Celine passed along the family traditions and values of the Shinnick family name. All necessary ingredients for a family business to thrive. 

The 9 Shinnick kids still own and operate this bar to this very day. 3 generations of Shinnick bartenders have poured beer for the people of Bridgeport, now in its third generation as Shinnick’s Pub. Complete with iits own nickname of “Little City Hall,” Shinnick’s pub is part of the fabric that make the Bridgeport community.  

Shinnick’s has seen it all at, from the end of prohibition, WWII, the moon landing, the Vietnam and Gulf War, 911 and now the COVID-19 pandemic. “People come here to laugh and cry, we’re in it with them. ” said Jenna Duddleston, great granddaughter of George and Mary Shinnick. “I’ve wondered if we’ve served out last beer during this pandemic, realizing we need to keep serving for 83 more years,” she said.  It’s a space where weary Chicagoans can hang their hat, drown the sorrows of life. and be surrounded by family. 

Family is exactly the secret sauce that has kept this pub going throughout the years. People are treated like family, from the first owners to the generation waiting to take over.  “How many people can say they’re bartending at the place, not only where their grandparents worked at, but their great grandparents worked at?”  ‘It’s so much more than being a bartender,”’ said Duddleston. 

The tradition of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations continues today, they’re open for business and ready to pour you a pint. Just don’t you dare spit on the floor.

Shinnick’s Pub – 3758 S. Union Ave, Chicago.

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