The Grotto

Welcome to Joe’s Bar and Theater

The Blank Slate

Big Joe

A job transfer took us across the country, taking us from our beloved Chicago to the Northeast. In taking this opportunity, we were giving up several things that we enjoyed—most notably the weekend condo on Oak Street Beach, and the home-built media room and bar in our suburban house. It took us seven weeks of active house hunting to finally find a house.

We originally had a contract on a house, but it failed the inspection and the contract fell through. The good news was that house didn’t have space for a theater or bar, so I was able to put that back on my list of wants for the new house.

When we saw this house, it was filthy. Ten years of dug in grime in a house that was nine years old—stains in the carpeting that had other stains in them. The hardwood in the kitchen was damaged from being wet-mopped and left to warp. And then there was the damage that I had a hard time explaining how someone could damage things in quite this way, such as the bent cooktop and the bent convection oven fan.

origBut, it had a completely unfinished 9 foot basement that was above grade in the back of the house with a bunch of natural light. No other house we had seen had anything like this. In almost every other house, we found DIY work of questionable code adherence and workmanship—that I’d have to demolish and redo in every single case.


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