It’s official: Serb Hall is up for sale.
The South Side banquet hall known for providing hospitality and fish fries for over 70 years is well known throughout the entire city. It serves 2,000 pounds of fish each Friday and has been the scene of major political events over the decades.
Ald. Mark Borkowski called it the “‘go-to place’ to meet” for years. “In addition to the many activities that were held at Serb Hall, their fish fries brought patrons from near and far,” Borkowski said. “It was the place to be, and to be seen.”
But in a statement issued this week, Serb Hall’s owner, the nearby St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, said the harsh realities of the pandemic have resulted in a “severe revenue decline” for the banquet facility. The congregation recognizes the “business realities of today” and even sees a “unfavorable financial path” going forward. “Because of the prominent and desirable location of the property, we’re confident that there will be positive alternative use options that will better serve the church and local community,” said the church, which has hired Founders 3 to be the listing agent for the property at the corner of 51st Street and Oklahoma Avenue.
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Serb Hall opened in 1950, dedicated to the Serbian Orthodox men who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The facility has a 12-lane bowling alley, two bars, multiple kitchens and a 400-space parking lot, but the centerpiece is a spacious hall for hosting events such as banquets, wedding receptions and other social events that have been largely put on hold during the pandemic.
In 1967, Serb Hall started selling fish fries on Good Friday in the banquet and from a drive-up window. The now-weekly fish fry will continue “indefinitely,” the church said. County Supervisor Joseph Czarnezki noted he was a fan of the specialty Serbian fish. “I hope the St. Sava community will find a way to continue to provide this Serbian delicacy to the community,” Czarnezki said in a statement.
Serb Hall has a rich political history, hosting appearances by then- or future presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton as well as a host of local politicians.
On Nov. 14, 500 people attended a “Defend Your Vote” rally in support of Donald Trump’s false claims that he won re-election, and several attendees violated city health inspectors’ COVID-19 orders on social distancing and wearing masks. While he was trying to get people to comply with those orders, Serb Hall general manager Nicholas Alioto was pushed to the ground, and city health inspectors were harassed as they tried to defuse the situation.