PORTAGE PARK — When Michael Macdonald and his husband or wife saw a listing for an outdated Northwest Side dive bar, they drove to see it suitable absent.

The couple, who used to live in Humboldt Park, experienced been looking for a spot to investigate their imaginative endeavors in Chicago with out spending a fortune, they stated.

The bar was difficult to miss, with a sheet metallic exterior that after housed the Bim Bom Lounge, a Polish punk and metal bar at 5226 W. Belmont Ave. Full with a property, a garage and an apartment in the again, the previous bar proved to be perfect for the couple’s requirements, they explained. They bought it in October.

Bim Bom Lounge is now Bim Bom Studios, a new music recording studio and arts motion place run by Macdonald and his lover, Amanda Maraist.

“It’s just a quirky spot I experience like the facade itself is like an unofficial landmark simply because it is so bizarre,” Maraist said. “We imagine that the earlier owner’s spouse was a metalworker or a little something.”

Credit score: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Bim Bom Studios, 5226 W. Belmont Ave., in Portage Park on June 23, 2022.

Bim Bom Lounge commenced as a bar in 1986, according to county documents. In 1990, it adjusted possession and was a bar until it shut when the pandemic started out. Which is when the present-day entrepreneurs observed it for sale.

Macdonald and Maraist had been authorized to keep the name in exchange for also maintaining the bar machines, which sounded like a good deal, Macdonald said. He offered the tools and elements of the sheet metallic on line to make area for the space’s upcoming journey: his studio and creation space, which he had extensive dreamed of opening.

Macdonald, a tunes producer and mixer, expended quite a few months renovating the bar into the studio and rental house, soundproofing and repainting the walls, upgrading the rest room and introducing windows.

Credit history: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The place at Bim Bom Studios in Portage Park on June 23, 2022.

“I imagined getting a spot would be a good way to be super sustainable and also provide genuinely, genuinely economical recording time to people today simply because our hire is incredibly lower,” Macdonald said. “The price tag of the house is definitely, really minimal. We purchased it as-is.”

The studio delivers sliding scale hourly fees in an obtainable room with tons of organic light, gear and devices and a basement for more recording house. Considering that opening in January, the room has been chaotic: Maraist has booked about 25 artists, and Macdonald has made 8 records and combined 15 new music assignments — all with the enterprise of the couple’s welcoming doggy, Billie.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Michael Macdonald and Amanda Maraist pose for a photo with Billie the dog at Bim Bom Studios in Portage Park on June 23, 2022.

The two want Bim Bom Studios to serve as an cost-effective place for artists to make and infuse much more artwork into the Northwest Side.

“Everyone just would seem to be truly supportive of us on this strip,” Macdonald explained. “This place is actually pretty fascinating, and a lot of it is the mystery of it. I was form of astonished by how much I take pleasure in walking all around and guessing what is the heritage.”

‘It Was A Put up-Solidarity Club’

The sheet steel exterior and interior of the bar are a permanent homage to the lounge’s rowdier days, when it hosted punk rock displays as part of the music scene in the late ’80s and ’90s.

The 2018 movie “A Night time On Milwaukee Ave.” files this period. Filmmaker Adrian Prawica, who grew up in Belmont Cragin close to Bim Bom Lounge, never ever hung out there but by his film learned it was additional of a Polish “youth-oriented bar.”

“When that club arrived in, it was element of the new migration of the community,” Prawica stated. “It was a publish-Solidarity club and existed soon after the fall of communism” in Poland.

Prawica remembers the building’s one of a kind exterior design and style and said it highlighted the “cutting-edge of contemporary punk new music.”


The Bim Bim Lounge is believed to have had a person of the final using tobacco rooms in Chicago, which is now Macdonald’s output area. It also had specific lavatory wallpaper that has been remaining untouched.

Previous patrons of the bar referred to as it one particular of the best spots in the metropolis for punk and metallic shows in Yelp testimonials.

“Welcome to Polish heavy steel heaven,” one human being wrote.

It was also acknowledged for its celebration of Polish tradition — Polish Television shows, new music and food items were generally element of the vibe — that designed the area “one of the nicest dive bars” and an “undiscovered minor gem,” reviewers said.

“I am tempted to give this put 1 star just so people today will not comprehend how great it is, but alas I will be genuine and give them the 4 stars they have earned,” yet another patron wrote in 2009.

Credit history: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A lavatory wall is nevertheless adorned with pornographic visuals from the prior Bim Bom Lounge at Bim Bom Studios in Portage Park on June 23, 2022.

Macdonald and Maraist really feel blessed to have observed the space and are making use of it pump refreshing energy into the group.

“We have artists setting up perform-in-development showings, so I imagine compact is fantastic, personal is good,” Maraist stated. “That’s largely what we can tackle proper now. … But we are certainly interested in undertaking performances.”

The two are functioning on renovating the basement with the purpose of generating house for out-of-town artists to remain though doing work there. They also want to plant a backyard garden on the roof.

“There’s all sorts of pleasurable matters we can do, but appropriate now I’m centered on the factor I actually appreciate to do, which is generating documents and helping folks make artwork,” Macdonald said.

Credit score: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Michael Macdonald and Billie hold out in the condominium attached to Bim Bom Studios in Portage Park on June 23, 2022.

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