Smylie Brothers, an eight-year-old brewpub in downtown Evanston, permanently shut down on New Year’s Eve, just four months after it closed its location in the Lakeview neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side.

Smylie Brothers announced the abrupt closure on its Instagram and Facebook accounts on New Year’s Eve.

“Thank you to all our friends, family, coworkers and guests, your support over the past 8 years is truly appreciated. Sadly, as a result of the pandemic we are no longer able to operate the business and are now closed,” the statement said.

The Evanston operation, which opened in 2014, served up craft beer, Texas BBQ and wood-fired pizza and had a large patio as well as event space.

Smylie Brothers Brewing Co., 1615 Oak Ave., a brewpub in downtown Evanston, closed for good on New Year’s Eve. Credit: Manan Bhavnani

“It’s just really sad that they’re gone. I think Smylie’s will really be missed in the Evanston community,” said Danielle Zimmerman, an Evanstonian who was a regular at the restaurant. Zimmerman said the news of the restaurant shutting down caught her off guard as there were no visible indications the business was struggling, “My first reaction was just shock,” she said. Zimmerman is also part of a local group of enthusiasts who share news and updates about local businesses in Evanston and the surrounding areas.

Owner Mike Smylie declined to comment.

Downtown Evanston has had serious issues recovering from the pandemic. Foot traffic in the area has shrunk in recent years from its pre-pandemic peak.

“The bottom-line is we need people, and we need people to be spending the money,” said Annie Coakley, executive director of Downtown Evanston. With rents and inflation up in recent months, businesses are feeling the crunch. “The cost of food has increased, so the margins are really tight,” she said.

One aspect of the pandemic has been the decimation of a consistent, everyday lunch-going customer base.

“Two days a week isn’t going to cut it. I think we have to think of our transformation period,” Coakley said.

Manan Bhavnani

Prior to joining the RoundTable, Manan Bhavnani covered business and technology for the International Business Times, with a focus on mergers, earnings and governance. He is a double Medill graduate, with...

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  1. One thing that discourages people from coming to Evanston is the parking. Anyone I ever talk to about downtown Evanston mentions the parking fees, the regulations, the difficulty of paying with the app (esp. for older customers), the reputation of the police for ferocious enforcement. I myself go to downtown Evanston only where there an NU lot nearby (I have an NU sticker). When will the Evanston City Council understand this?

  2. This is unfortunate, but the level of service I received in my last two visits was so terrible that I stopped going there. No one can sustain a business with consistent sub-par service. I am guessing others felt the same and decided to go elsewhere for food and drink. Very sad to see this happen.

  3. Good riddance! Twice in the past year I attempted to go there, and myself and others waiting to be seated were barked at and harassed by a rude “hostess” – and both times myself and these other parties just left, “never again”. Double Clutch Brewing Company is an prime example of how excellent food and service can be, so SB was simply outclassed. The Celtic Knot and Ridgeville Tap are two more fine places downtown, so they get plenty of mine and other’s business…

    QUOTE: “Downtown Evanston has had serious issues with recovery after the pandemic. Foot traffic in the area has shrunk in recent years from its pre-pandemic peak…”

    A “factor” in this is that downtown is now a magnet for panhandlers and vagrants; people don’t need unpleasant “interactions” when they just want to relax and treat themselves to a nice meal…

    Parking costs are another issue, neighboring towns don’t gouge visitors as downtown Evanston does…

    If Annie Coakley is not willing to recognize these factors – and try to mitigate them – the situation will only worsen. At present, downtown Evanston is hardly a welcoming milieu for those seeking to spend their hard -earned leisure dollars…

    Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident