The Oasis Tavern: A Piece of Rogers Park History

Whether you call it the Rogers Park Institution or “The O”, The Oasis Tavern has been serving Rogers Park locals and thirsty Loyola students for over 30 years. Located in the heart of the Loyola community, this isn’t your typical modern River North or Wrigleyville bar, but it holds an old school charm. It’s in its name-- it’s an oasis. According to the Merriam-Webster definition, an oasis is a “fertile or green area in an arid region (such as a desert)” or, “something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast.” After all the bars in the surrounding area close at 2 am, The O still has its doors open until 4 am and acts as a haven for college students and locals.

After talking to the manager, I learned that the location of the bar holds a lot of history. It is actually one of the oldest establishments in Rogers Park and has been a neighborhood hotspot for over almost 100 years. In the 1920s, the building was a hotel called “The Rogers Park” and The Oasis was a bar within the hotel.

Newspapers.com

Chicago Tribune Clippings Courtesy of Newspapers.com 

The image above is an advertisement from The Chicago Tribune on September 25, 1921. You may be able to recognize that building on the corner of Pratt and N. Sheridan Rd.

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Courtesy of Ultra Local Geography Blog

These images above show the interior of The Roger’s Park hotel, where the guests enjoyed a grand lobby and dining hall, as well as a ballroom, salon, and bar. Today’s main bar area (pictured below) was restricted to men only and the area with the darts and pool table was a women’s hair salon in the ’20s.

Monica Contractor

Today, The Oasis is everything you’d want in a local dive bar.  It’s an old school, two-roomed bar with classic darts, pool, and karaoke. It’s also far from your average college bar scene — there are no sticky floors and no watered down drinks. One of the highlights of The Oasis is the daily drink specials and diverse selection of craft beers. Another perk is that you can walk in with food from 7/11 or even order hot pizza from the neighborhood pizza guy. It’s a laid back scene where it’s acceptable to show up in your sweatpants to take a study break, or show up and cheer on the Ramblers. 

My personal favorite part about The Oasis is karaoke night on Sundays. With such a diverse crowd, you are likely to hear songs from every decade. My best friend and I made it a tradition to go to The Oasis on Sundays after a week of exams — it’s been a highlight of my Loyola experience.  

Monica Contractor

What makes The Oasis great are the people who go there and work there, such as the manager, April, one of the nicest, yet fierce, people I’ve met (if you’re lucky, you can hear her sing on Sundays); Tyler, who runs the show on Sundays and makes karaoke nights memorable; and the legendary bartender Gigi, who is described by Loyola undergraduate students to be a “gentle soul in this often dark and stressful world”. You will typically encounter a mixed crowd — Loyola students, Rogers Park locals, and visitors. The Oasis is a “regulars” kind of bar, but they are some of the most accepting, kind, and lively people I’ve ever met. I’ve had the opportunity to walk down memory lane (and sing karaoke) with the Roger’s Park locals and Loyola Alumni who have been spending over five football seasons there; Loyola Alumni often reminisce about karaoke and drunken nights after their undergraduate exams. My personal favorite story is about a couple who got married there. 

Although The Oasis isn’t the typical college bar, even undergraduate students have grown fond of it. If I haven’t highlighted The Oasis, here’s what other students have to say about it (select names and identities have been left out to respect the privacy of the interviewee): Zoe S, a senior at Loyola University Chicago, discovered The Oasis last year and loves the vibe: “It’s a really cool hidden gem where students have a chance to interact with the people who actually live in Rogers Park,” Loyola senior, Zoe said. “I really like the vibe there… it’s not too crowded and I can talk to anyone without having to worry about much. Also, their buttery nipple shot specials are real good.” 

For Erin C, it was the first bar she went on her 21st birthday, which was the same week Bar 63 closed (rip). “It was a great start to the night, and the bartender was super nice,” said Erin, “I’ll always look back on that night fondly. Just me, my sister, and my friends, talking and having a drink. It’s nice that it’s actually possible to talk at The O, and isn’t ridiculously loud.” 

Another Loyola student, grew to love The O: “Friendly, personable service, quality prices, and unending games of darts make it hard to leave… Until I stepped into the Oasis, I had never been to an establishment which always kills stress, conjures laughter, and creates great memories with good college buddies.”

Jake Y. considers the bar a holy sanctuary. “With the loss of 63, the Oasis, or “The O” as we call it, has become a haven for grabbing casual drinks with friends. It is a different atmosphere with a more local presence and darts. We miss 63, but the O has become a spectacular dive bar.” 

Going to The O has become a quintessential part of the Loyola experience. It’s one of the best places to get your drink on (in sweatpants, if you wish), have a conversation with friends, cheer on the Ramblers, simply wind down, or even get married. At the end of the night, we are left with memories and amazing stories to tell after we graduate from Loyola. I’ll be raising my drink up to The Oasis Tavern and not just the bar, but also the people who make it special every week.