Former Chicago Bull Jimmy Butler and ex-Chicago Bear Roquan Smith are part of a group opening a new music venue and restaurant in River North.

Welcome to the Farm is described as a 10,000-square-foot entertainment venue that will regularly host live music. There are also locations in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Cleveland. The Farm is shooting for an August opening, according to a news release. The venue will feature a stage on the second floor with space for 300. They’re keeping the previous tenant’s retractable rooftop.

The space, the former Fremont, will house a barbecue restaurant, Drinking Pig BBQ, with food from Miami chef Raheem Sealy. Sealy has teamed up with Forward Hospitality Group, a Cleveland group that opened a bar, Good Night, John Boy, last year in West Loop. Welcome to the Farm’s Cleveland location open in 2021. Sealy is a big deal in Miami, known for his work at KYU. Earlier this year, Miami New Times named Drinking Pig the city’s best barbecue. A rep says Sealy will be in Chicago quarterly to check in on operations; as the company’s executive chef, he regularly travels to visit Forward Hospitality’s various restaurants.

While Chicagoans might be more familiar with Butler, a late-first-round pick in 2011 who turned into a perennial NBA All-Star now with the Miami Heat; or Smith, an All-Pro linebacker now with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, the main investor is Chase Rice, a singer-songwriter who starred on TV’s Survivor. Like Smith, he played linebacker in college. Butler, who grew up in Tomball, Texas, is a noted country music fan.

Drinking Pig’s menu will include sandwiches, ribs, brisket, and cornbread. They’ll be open late, but there’s no indication of how late they’ll serve. Concertgoers can grab food before or after the show. As Windy City Smokeout, the country music and barbecue festival held annually outside the United Center, takes place this weekend, eventually Welcome to the Farm could provide an ideal post-event space for patrons in the same vein as Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ Bub City.

Another perk is Butler’s involvement. During the NBA’s 2020 “bubble” playoffs, which all took place in Orlando, Florida (association officials relegated the games to Disney World to curb the spread of COVID), Butler launched a coffee hustle, capitalizing on a lack of quality caffeine options available to other players and team members. Four years later, Butler — a player known for an unrelenting style — now has a bonafide coffee company called BIGFACE. Look for “new specialty coffee products” from Butler, along with cocktails, and lots of bourbon, whisky, and perhaps a Michelob Ultra. Chicago will be the first city where customers can pick up BIGFACE products onsite, a rep confirms.

Welcome to the Farm and Drinking Pig BBQ, 15 W. Illinois Street, planned for an August opening.

2024-07-09T18:43:19Z dg43tfdfdgfd