Dreams, Dead or Deferred: Division Bar

In early 2021, I was of the belief that the Covid era would be great time to develop, execute and fund a bar project in South St. Louis. I’d wind up doing just that, in a different location and with a very-different geographic bent later in 2021. But on January 12, 2021, I typed up the following idea for the old Mangia Italiano space and presented it to a possible investor/partner, as well as an interested owner-operator candidate for the original Mangia space; the investor would’ve been in on funding both operations. While I wasn’t glad at the time that Mr. Investor Super-Flake super-flaked on us, I’m happy that this work arrangement didn’t get farther in retrospect. And as other entities would wind up taking these spaces over… all’s well that ends well, I suppose.

That said, I still to this very day think that a Chicago-themed bar of this sort would make a ton of money in the right location and with the right management.

As I’m going through some old notes this afternoon, in a city a 15-hour car ride from Chicago, I’m feeling the need to share. In fact, if someone in St. Louis wants to pursue this, you have my blessing; consider this a legal “go for it” doc. The rest of y’all can make fun of me all you want, but you also know in your heart that this ain’t crazy. Anyway, here’s my early 2021 vision for Division:


The following information is intended as a basic outline for Division Bar, a drinking establishment located inside of the northern half of the long-running bar and restaurant Mangia Italiano, a staple of the South Grand business district. As envisioned here, Division Bar would exist alongside a new Mangia Italiano, headed up by a group including operator (name redacted).

Division Bar would be a separate business from the new Mangia in every way, from ownership to control of liquor license to staff to focus. The businesses would be complementary, but not competing and the inherent goal is that the management of each business would work to ensure the best-possible, longest-lasting relationship between the two. The new Mangia would live inside the classic barroom of Mangia, which includes the famous Wayne St. Wayne mural, “Mangia Evolutiano.” This side would include a full-service bar and restaurant, including the kitchen left by the previous iteration of Mangia.

Division Bar would exist on the other side of that business, in a space added by Mangia’s third ownership. Division Bar would live in a completely separated space, with first floor and basement bar capacities. Included in this model is a rebuilding of the wall separating the two spaces, or the room that was Mangia Italiano and the former Vintage Haberdashery. Two completely different experiences would be had inside the two rooms.


Division Bar is named after Division Street in Chicago and is also a nod to a division between the two former rooms of Mangia. The bar would be dedicated to Chicago, from the beer and spirits lineup to a wall of TVs showing the games by all the major sports franchises: Blackhawks (NHL), Bulls (NBA), White Sox and Cubs (MLB), Bears (NFL), Fire (MLS), Sky (WNBA). Programming of these sort would cover over 300 days of the year, with supplemental sports including teams from the University of Illinois. The basement bar could, in fact, be used as a dedicated room for those teams, or for a game room.


Division Bar would appeal to Chicago expats, as well as those who attended school in Illinois, particularly the University of Illinois. There would be some spillover from Mangia Italiano and other area bars, though Division Bar would be seen as a destination bar.

Division Bar would feature a 25-year-old age minimum, so that it wouldn’t be catering to a college clientele, or those still getting their drinking legs.


Draft beers, spirits, wines and canned beers would all be sourced from regional breweries, wineries and distillers. Nothing would be purchased from outside Missouri or Illinois, including the rail liquors. Nothing would be featured on draft if served at Mangia; we’d only ask Mangia not to sell Malort!


Division Bar would be able to run on a lean operation of no more than 8 staffers, plus management. On a weeknight, two bartenders, with a barback and/or door man on the weekends, and/or for bigger games. Thomas Crone would be an owner-operator and regular presence behind the bar. “Lean” comes in part from…


Division Bar would build a half-window into the kitchen of Mangia Italiano. The entire kitchen business would be run by Mangia. A bit of Chicago fare (e.g. brats) would be sufficient for the Division crowd. All monies earned would be Mangia’s. Our interest in the kitchen would only be to allow some food service for the Division Bar crowd, but all purchasing, recipe creation, staffing, etc, would belong to Mangia.


Division Bar would feature minimal seating in front, perhaps two four- or six-top tables. The side patio of the prior Mangia would remain as Mangia’s. Some smoking would take place outside with no smoking inside, obviously. There’d be zero tolerance for marijuana smoking anywhere on the Division side and no shared bottles or glassware would pass between businesses. {Please note that my 420 intolerance in 2021 was born of a different legal time frame; I’d also been working around a whole lotta potheads.}


Mangia and Division would have split entries. The pre-existing wall of the Mangia/Haberdashery days would be reinstalled. This would be our only major need, with a door built into the wall to allow staffers basement access. The window to the kitchen would also be a secondarily-large fix. Bathrooms would stay, as is. Stage, as is.


Division Bar would utilize the colors of the Chicago flag and work that iconography in our designs. No beer of liquor signage would be inside of Division Bar. We’d feature both sports and non-sports references to Chicago, with more mural than free-standing/-hanging works. The vibe would be clean and uncluttered upstairs, with drink rails, two- and four-tops. TVs would be on the north wall, as well as in nooks and crannies on the first floor. Additional TVs in basement. Sound would be on for games.


Division Bar contact teams in Chicago for staff shirts and the like and would feature the number 21 (for 2021). Thinking that a secondary team like the Fire or the Sky would be accommodating in providing us gear.


Service would begin at 4 pm daily and run until one hour after game times with a 1:30 am license sought; this means that some nights might end at 11 pm, let’s say, or even earlier. We’d have the flexibility to stay open with a great crowd, or could announce last call, depending on vibe. On days of day games (like Bears games on Sunday, or Cubs games throughout the spring and summer), we’d open one half-hour before gametime.


Likely, there’s a bar in Chicago that would be a good sibling bar. More research needed to see what bar this might be and how things could work.


Division Bar would have presence on the usual component of social media sites. We’d work to build up word-of-mouth through traditional media, thinking that the story of a Chicago-themed bar in St. Louis would be picked up by outlets in both cities without too much effort. We would set aside a small ad budget for other buys leading up to opening, then relax traditional advertising.