Township is a new music venue/restaurant that’s owned by Brian Peterson of MP Productions and Tamiz Haiderali, former chef/owner of Treat Restaurant. The two acquired the space at 2200 N. California Ave., which was once occupied by Pancho’s, after the previous owner decided to retire. The partnering of Peterson and Haiderali in this business venture is significant for several reasons. For starters, Township is the first venue owned by Peterson after nearly 20 years of him booking shows at various Chicago clubs. Also, this is the initial culinary project for Haiderali since the closing of his celebrated restaurant last year. Although it’s barely been two months that Township has been in business, much of the groundwork has already been laid for what promises to be a uniquely positive concert going and dining experience.
Township’s name comes from both owners wanting something simple, as well as a title that represents community. It’s also derived from the fact that before Chicago’s borders were completely defined, the area west of Western Ave. and north of Armitage Ave. was known as Jefferson Township. Besides agreeing on what to call their business, Peterson and Haiderali also concurred that being located in the Logan Square neighborhood provided numerous benefits. “I have been involved in the area for 20 years or so and there are a lot of musicians, artists, foodies and likeminded folks that live in the area. We feel fortunate to have been able to do this at this time, in this location,” Peterson said. Haiderali added, “The clientele from my former restaurant were mainly residents of Logan Square. Brian and I are both entrenched in the Logan Square community and have participated in many events, like the farmer’s market and the Milwaukee Arts Festival.” When asked about why he’d want to start his own venue after years of promoting shows at different clubs, Peterson responded “I wanted to be able to have more control and be able to invest the money made from concessions into the future of the room, the shows and the overall quality of what we are doing. That tends to get lost when going into bars or venues where the owner is disconnected from what is actually going on. It can be a negative thing and reflects poorly on the work we are doing.”
This January, Township hosted the annual event known as Ian’s Party. It spanned three days and featured bands such as: The Brokedowns, Vacation Bible School, The Treasure Fleet, Lord, Sweet Cobra and more. Ian’s Party served as somewhat of an unofficial kickoff celebration for Township, and also introduced lots of music fans to the venue. “It was fun and a welcomed event for us since January tends to be a slow month,” Peterson said. “It was wonderful to have a ton of people who supported us while it was Pancho’s come out and see what we were doing and how things were changing. I felt we were able to give folks a glimpse of things to come and there seemed to be a lot of excitement about the changes.” In terms of what he likes best about the live music room at Township, Peterson said “The simplicity of it. We are trying to avoid all the bells and whistles of a rock club, avoiding the clutter, posters and random junk attached to every surface. I feel the bands should be the focus and the room lends itself to that, and will so even more as we progress and tweak the sound, stage and layout.”
Compared to other similar-sized venues in Chicago, Township aims to differentiate itself by keeping things simple and focusing on touring bands. They hope to provide quality while still offering low prices, and strive to someday be associated with noteworthy Chicago venues like Prodigal Son, Schubas and The Hideout. When speaking about what sets Township apart, Haiderali said “Township has a coffee bar, beer bar, specialty cocktails and quality food. One can enjoy a concert in the music venue area or enjoy it from our café counter. The experience at Township can be made to whatever one wants it to be and is not dictated by the layout of the premises.” According to Peterson and Haiderali, combining a restaurant with a music venue was something they always intended to do. “Tamiz and I have been friends for 15 years or so. He was friends with my wife, they worked together, and now he babysits our kids and comes to family functions. I loved Treat and we always talked about doing something bigger,” Peterson said. He continued, “I think with today’s economy you need to diversify and find ways to make a music venue all encompassing: food, drink, community, art, culture, family, punk rock – there is room for all of that here.”
Similar to Peterson, Haiderali also has two decades worth of experience in his respective industry. He’s worked in a variety of restaurants, from Jewish delis to high-end bistros, performing all functions and learning various techniques along the way. Eventually he would open his own eatery, a small Indian bistro that was praised by critics and the general public alike. “Treat was an Indian fusion restaurant in Humboldt Park that was around for five years. It was featured on Check Please and Hungry Hound, and with that came much popularity. We eventually outgrew the space and the restaurant was ultimately sold in April of 2011,” Haiderali said. “I brought some of Treat’s dishes to Township; however, the menu at Township is not Indian-influenced in its entirety, though some subtle Indian notes are prevalent in certain dishes.” When detailing Township’s menu further, Haiderali explained “Township’s brunch is like no other in the city. Along with standard brunch fare and omelets, the menu has specialty benedicts, pancakes and scrambles. The dinner menu currently is limited to a dozen or so items and mainly consists of sandwiches, but additions like rice bowls, seafood and flatbread options are in the works.”
Looking ahead, Peterson and Haiderali hope to see Township grow naturally and be embraced by the surrounding community. They also wish that patrons define Township for themselves, and thereby enjoy the space in a multitude of ways. “We want people to figure out what it means to them, we don’t want to label ourselves really. I feel that for some people we will be a coffee shop, for some a bar, for some a music venue and for some a café. It’s all good and eventually we’re hoping for more crossover, where music fans are coming to brunch and morning coffee folks are coming out to shows,” Peterson said. Haiderali expressed similar desires for the future, adding “We expect Township to grow organically. We want to be the premier breakfast/lunch place in the neighborhood, serving brunch items throughout the day, along with a proper coffee shop. Then, we will expand our dinners and late night menus. We also will have good wine selections, draft beer options and liquor from local and craft distilleries.” Peterson concluded the discussion of upcoming plans by hinting at additional expansion. He said, “We are hoping to buy the building eventually and create something even more unique, incorporating lodging, a rooftop patio/garden and a green space. But right now it’s all about slow, organic growth and reinvestment into small things that had been neglected for so many years with the old owner. We operate on very thin margins, but both Tamiz and I are creative, and we have a lot of support and help from friends and the community.”