When last call hits but you’re not ready to call it a night, Chicago’s so-called 4:00 AM bars have you covered. A standard tavern license in Chicago allows a bar to stay open until 2:00 AM (and until 3:00 AM on Saturdays going into Sunday), but a select number of bars with a late-night license can stay open until 4:00 AM (and 5:00 AM on Saturdays going into Sunday). These licenses are hard to get, making late-night bars few and far between.
Late-night bars are hubs for the not-ready-to-go-home drunk crowd. The scene is rarely pretty, but it is a great time. Whether you’re looking to dance, listen to live music, or just want to keep a great time going with friends, Chicago’s best bars for a late-night drink have you covered.
Smartbar is the city’s premier club for techno, and it attracts top DJs from around the world. After 2:00 AM, a stream of revelers from nearby bars join the party. Despite being located in the heart of Wrigleyville, Smartbar avoids the worst of the neighborhood’s bro culture, but not all of it. Anyone with dancing on their late-night itinerary should keep Smartbar in mind, but take note that there’s a cover charge.
Where: 3730 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60613
2. The Green Mill
If you’re looking for a more upscale late-night experience, The Green Mill is where to be. This Uptown jazz club was a Prohibition-era speakeasy complete with subterranean tunnels to sneak booze in and people out. It had a reputation as a gangster hangout for people like Al Capone in the past, but today it’s more known for its live jazz, neon sign, Art Deco sculptures, and long bar.
Where: 4802 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640
Located just steps away from the six-corners intersection in the heart of Wicker Park, Estelle’s has been in the 4:00 AM game for a long time. The Art Deco bar is nice, but the real attractions are the cheap drinks and inexplicably good burgers. It’s a small bar and gets crowded if you’re not in one of the booths in the back, but the atmosphere is nice and the jukebox plays the hits.
Where: 2013 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
4. Old Town Ale House
The walls of Old Town Ale House are cluttered with framed drawings of the bar’s regular customers. That’s just one sign of the bar’s dedication to patrons that makes this a great place for a drink whether it’s early in the night or after all the other places have closed. Performers and spectators from the legendary Second City Comedy Club across the street are often here, making for a crowd that’s ready to laugh and have a good time.
Where: 219 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60610
5. The Owl
This Logan Square dive bar has good tunes, people dance, the drinks are well-priced, and there’s always a good crowd. It’s no secret that The Owl is a fun bar, and there’s always a line late at night on the weekends. It’s worth the wait, and if you’re hungry there are good brats cooked up on the sidewalk nearby.
Where: 2521 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
6. The Continental
Along an industrial stretch of Chicago Avenue south of Humboldt Park and west of Ukranian Village, The Continental is a solid bar that draws in folks looking for a late-night drink from those two hoods. The bar has two floors and a back patio, and attracts people who work in the bar industry. Things you won’t experience here: top 40 hits and cocktails with over-the-top garnishes.
Where: 2801 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Berlin is an LGBTQ bar, but anybody with a good attitude is welcome here. The music at Berlin is great and the crowd is always up for a good time. This is one of the city’s best spots for late-night dancing. There’s usually a $5-10 cover late at night, but the drinks are dirt cheap.
Where: 954 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60657
Ravens is located smack in the middle of Lincoln Park, so there is a definite frat boy vibe here. Still, there are worse places around this neighborhood. Ravens is a solid dive where you can keep the party going and drink a few cheap beers. At the very least, you can get some free popcorn.
Where: 2326 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
9. Clark Street Ale House
Considering the typical bar-goer in River North, you’d expect a 4:00 AM spot in that neighborhood to be the biggest dive of them all. Somehow, probably due to all the bar and restaurant folks who come here to unwind, Clark Street Ale House is a damn good bar. Clark Street has had a huge craft beer selection since before it was cool, and its talented bartenders make excellent cocktails no matter how late at night.
Where: 742 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654