Location: 2354 N. Clark St.
The photo above and the excerpt below appeared in the August 1988 issue of Chicago Magazine.
“After nine years of existence, Neo is still going strong, much of its success due to Fortis’s insistence that the club change its interpretation of itself every 18 months or so. The new look is inspired by the hard-edged feel of Lower Wacker Drive and very Chicago. And there’s none of the faux/mock/ersatz stuff that was the hallmark of hip two years ago: Everything here is—shall we say?—vrai. There’s a 4,000 pound concrete-and-terrazo bar top, rough, cement-coated walls, and another bar made of real zinc that sells lime-stuffed Coronas and tequila. On Mondays Neo is filled with artists, actors, and lots of taut-looking, high-cheekboned model types from Elite. (And I did meet an artist, Allison, who makes ‘organized graffiti’ while doing real-estate deals on the side.) The dance floor is packed with a gay and straight, black and white crowd, the most mixed I’ve seen anywhere next to Berlin. Everyone is glossy and hot, sweating up a storm of fun, even Grandpa Neo, a bearded, elderly gentleman in a Neo jacket who’s been hanging out here for more than six years. ‘I’ll be back next week,’ he says as he walks out, waving, ‘if I’m still alive.’”
Neo is definitely the city’s most famous goth bar, though its competition pretty much boils down to Exit (kinda) and Late Bar. Anyways, it’s probably weird enough to make anyone wearing a North Face fleece pretty uncomfortable, which is the reason why I went to check it out in the first place. Having seen Blade several times, I was led by Hollywood to believe that secret goth raves were being thrown all over town on a nightly basis, where pallid, fishnet-clad girls partied in a hail of glow sticks, flying phlegm, and spraying blood. I thought Neo was the place to see this, and boy was that not the case when I stepped inside. Instead of having foul, hatefucky sex in bathroom stalls, people there mostly just danced it out hard to The Cure. Which is fun too, and a lot more sanitary.
However, I’m surprised that Neo in the late ’80s was a popular hangout where bros and models mingled. I’m also surprised that half of the concrete mannequin that appears in the photo above is still there today, and appears in the gallery’s first photo below. Most of all, it seems like bars don’t last more than a few years any more, and the fact that Neo has been around since 1979 is downright impressive. Quite frankly, I think it’s because of its really interesting alley entrance, but I may be biased.