Jekyl and Hyde: They've Been Putting the ‘Boo’ in Booze for 27 Years
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Jekyl and Hyde: They've Been Putting the ‘Boo’ in Booze for 27 Years

Sep 24, 2023

Mike Alberter believes his bar is one of the safest spots on the South Side … even if it is crawling with monsters.

Since 1996, creatures of the night have packed Jekyl and Hyde on 18th Street to celebrate Halloween year-round with devilish decor and to-die-for drinks. Imagine Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory with a liquor license.

The place is tucked back in the flats off of East Carson, which is home to a large concentration of bars and weekend revelers. When the real world gets a little too scary, having a glass of Spooky Juice off the beaten path in a friendly neighborhood dive is a nice distraction.

With black lights and fake cobwebs covering the back bar, a life-sized Michael Myers from “Halloween” lording over the ATM machine and disco skulls hanging from the ceiling, every square inch of the space is a hair-raising, selfie-worthy experience.

“We like to garnish the Evil Drinks with plastic fangs or a finger,” says bartender Lauren Anderson.

She hands me a menu labeled Cocktails for the Recently Deceased, a subtle nod to the movie “Beetlejuice.”

Anderson started haunting the place as a customer in 2017. Now she’s a regular behind the bar, where you’ll often find her in a pair of black kitty ears and spider-web leggings.


Customer costumes are encouraged at Jekyl and Hyde, which operates daily from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. (with Ghastly Hour specials from 8-10 highlighting local craft beers). But you can also feel free to be yourself here, too. There’s no shame in belting out “Thriller” on Thursdays at the South Side’s longest-running karaoke night. Creepy crooners can vie for a cash prize at the end of every month.

“That’s the heart of this place,” Anderson says. “For me, and, I think, for most women who tend to go out by themselves, feeling comfortable and safe in a bar is the No. 1 priority. I’m proud to provide a positive atmosphere and add something special to this neighborhood that I live in and love.”

I’m always clad in some sort of monster T-shirt, so I feel right at home at Jekyl and Hyde. Two decades ago, it was the first stop on my 21st birthday bar tour. I’m still apologizing to my friends for the horrors they had to endure that night, which, by the end, looked like a scene out of “The Exorcist.”

In honor of my patient pals, I ordered the joint’s most popular beverage, the Jag-O-Lantern, a mix of vanilla, orange and whipped cream Smirnoff vodka served in a collectible cup. One sip gave me the same type of sugar rush I experienced as a kid trick-or-treating in the ’80s.

If you don’t have a sweet tooth, there’s also a rotating selection of 13 draft beers and a cooler bursting with canned offerings. For a nightmarish morning-after, enjoy the extensive tequila and mezcal collection. No matter what poison you pick, you might want to fill your belly before your visit; aside from some pre-packaged snacks and a Tuesday night food truck, there’s no food served at Jekyl and Hyde, which is probably for the best given the blood-and-guts decor.

The elderly gentleman seated next to me munched on pretzels and nursed a Meet Your Boilermaker, a pony bottle of Miller High Life and a shot of Bulleit Rye.

But the night is young: By 10 p.m., a new generation of party animals will be downing Grim Reaper shots while a DJ conjures demons on the dance floor.

In an age of immersive holiday pop-up bars, it’s easy to take a place like Jekyl and Hyde for granted.

When Alberter, who is also co-owner of Carmella’s Plates & Pints, opened the place during the Clinton Administration, he didn’t intend on making it an All Hallow’s Eve haven. The name is a reference to booze-induced mood swings. After a few months of soul-searching, he decided on an identity for the new venture that went above and beyond intoxication.

“I knew I had to be different from other bars on Carson,” he says. “Halloween is always the biggest night of the year, so we went full-force with it.”

The fact that Alberter was able to resurrect The Bar from Hell after a long, pandemic-related closure (as a non-smoking establishment no less!) is a testament to its popularity … and possible ties to the paranormal.

Every October, there’s always a slew of new, often painted, faces at the bar. Chances are you’ll see them there again throughout the year.

As I exit Jekyl and Hyde for what has to be the 50th time, I pop a pair of plastic fangs in my mouth and bid my bartender a Happy Halloween.

She grins like a jack-o’-lantern and says, “It’s been Halloween in here for 27 years!”