If there’s one thing Chicago does right—although, of course, there are many—it is getting properly decked out to celebrate the holiday season. From the Magnificent Mile’s Light Festival to Lincoln Park Zoo’s ZooLights, to the Holiday Flower Show and Holiday Market, it can be difficult to pick and choose what to do, but we’d be remiss to not mention the bar scene, as well.
Butch McGuire’s, a Chicago institution for decades, has become well-known for its Christmas decorations since Butch McGuire himself purchased Goldblatt’s Department Store’s old window display. That purchase was made the late 1960s, and the tradition continues today!
When the idea to decorate the bar first started, the staff themselves began hanging up the decorations around the bar, but the tradition really took off after a group of Chicago firefighters volunteered to help.Thanks to their additional help, Butch McGuire’s started hanging the decorations from the ceiling rather than using up space around the surface of the bar.
While the original artificial garland Butch bought has since deteriorated, the bar transitioned into using lights and a running model train, which they still use today. Since 2017, the bar has displayed 45,000 lights, in addition to the double decker trains and spinning mobiles of well-loved Disney characters and other winter staples. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that their light display during the Christmas season is what Butch McGuire’s has become known for!
Thanks to the notoriety the decorations brought, Butch McGuire’s has been able to turn the festivities into a way to help those who are less fortunate. Butch originally helped start Santa Claus Anonymous, and was able to pass that same sense of giving back to his son, Bobby. If you visit, you can buy one of the ornaments that decorate the bar, and all the proceeds will be donated to the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls. Train sponsors – local businesses whose company logos appear on the toy trains throughout the bar – eagerly take part in the tradition by making a donation to Mercy Home, as well.
That’s not all, though—this year will be the ninth annual toiletry drive for the residents of Mercy Home and, of course, Butch McGuire’s is leading the charge. During the entire month of December, the bar will be accepting donations of toiletries to give to the home, as well.
Checking out Butch McGuire’s for the season has become a time-honored tradition for many Chicago families. It’s the perfect union of having a good time while simultaneously helping the community.