Sonya Mlodzek, 47, is aiming to open J9 Wine Bar in a former real estate office at 1961 N. Halsted St. by July if Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) and community groups approve her requests for a zoning change and a liquor license.
A community meeting to gauge support for the zoning change and the liquor license is set for May 4 at Newberry School, 700 W. Willow St., beginning at 6 p.m.
Mlodzek envisions serving wine from all over the world, cocktails, a selection of beers by the bottle and snacks like cheese and olives.
She believes the neighborhood currently lacks a quiet and sophisticated wine bar. Existing establishments aren’t places “where [her] 70-year-old aunt could have a conversation with a girlfriend,” she said.
“I don’t want live music. I want a nice, quiet atmosphere to enjoy a glass of wine and a cocktail,” she said.
It’s a deeply personal project for Mlodzek, who named the bar after her sister Jeanine, who passed away in January of last year.
The tragedy came after both of Mlodzek’s parents died — her mother in 2014, and her stepfather in 2001 — leaving Mlodzek as the last-remaining member of her immediate family.
Mlodzek’s longtime family home was passed down over a 40-year span. As such, the entire property evokes so many memories for Mlodzek, including family parties and her mother’s cooking. Her parents even got married on the property and “has always been a source of joy and good times,” she said.
Now Mlodzek wants to pay homage to those memories by creating a place that other people can enjoy, too.
She plans to build a couple seats in the the front of the bar, which will be called “Grace’s Corner,” because her mother loved to talk to people. And she will hang a dart board on the wall — even if no one uses it — in honor of her stepfather, Dan.
“To know that my parents and my sister are looking down on me. … It’s a great feeling to keep their spirit alive on this property,” she said.
If the zoning change is granted, Mlodzek said she is prepared to revert back to the original zoning designation once the wine bar is up and running so future establishments won’t disrupt the neighborhood.