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About Bottleneck Management

Bottleneck Management was formed with the mission to operate vibrant, high energy, approachable restaurants and taverns in the most dynamic neighborhoods and locations in Chicago. 

With an operating philosophy of going beyond customer satisfaction to building customer loyalty, Bottleneck Management has been very successful in giving guests a great first impression and providing returning regulars something to always look forward to.

The Beginning

It all started when two friends from Illinois Wesleyan University decided to leave their respective careers to pursue a passion to become self employed entrepreneurs.  Jason Akemann and Nathan Hilding opened Trace, a two story store front tavern in Wrigleyville, in the spring of 2001.  Doing much of the aesthetic finishes themselves, and with the help of ever supportive friends and family, they opened just in time for the start of the Chicago Cubs baseball season. Luckily, their good fortune over the years has fared better than the Cubs did.

Years of Expansion

In 2007 Jason and Nathan brought on a third partner, and another classmate from IWU, Chris Bisaillon.  With the addition of Chris to the partnership Bottleneck’s expansion plans began to take root.  In September of 2007, the three partners opened The Boundary at 1932 W. Division St. in the Wicker Park neighborhood.

In September 2009, following The Boundary’s success, the group opened Sweetwater Tavern and Grille, located at 225 N. Michigan Ave.  Jason, Nate and Chris had always been driven by opportunity, rather than a time table, and another great opportunity came onto their radar resulting in South Branch.  South Branch, located along the south branch of the Chicago River at 100 S. Wacker Dr. opened in March of 2011.

In March 2012, Corporate Executive Chef Paul Katz came on board with the opening of Old Town Pour House, at 1419 N. Wells St.  Chef Katz elevated the culinary program at this location with a unique and refined approach to American classics, executing each dish with original flavors.  This stunning space took on a life of its own very quickly, while housing what was the largest craft beer selection on draft in the entire city of Chicago (90 tap handles).

90 tap handles were trumped not by a competitor, but by a brand new Bottleneck location. Howells & Hood opened in March of 2013, in the ground floor of the iconic and breathtaking Tribune Tower.  One would be hard-pressed to find a more upbeat and vibrant location on the Magnificent Mile. Executive Chef Scott Walton was brought on to create a menu that adds a brilliant twist to familiar favorites.  The culinary program is complimented by 114 unique local and global beers on draft, making it the largest draft selection in the city, and likely, the world.

The Crown, nestled within the flying buttresses of the Tribune Tower’s 25th floor, opened for private events shortly after Howells & Hood made its Chicago debut. Since then, The Crown is becoming the most impressive private event space in the city.  Offering 360 degree views, an indoor lounge, and private outdoor veranda, The Crown is perfect for cocktail receptions for up to 150 people.


The Latest

Bottleneck Management recently opened their first location outside of Chicago city limits.  Old Town Pour House now has a second location, having opened in Oakbrook Center in November, 2013.  Like its sister location, Old Town Pour House - Oak Brook houses 90 local and global beers on draft, craft cocktails, and American cuisine made with fresh, original flavors.

At the spearpoint of the craft beer revolution, the group is showing no signs of slowing down.  The company’s growth over the past 6 years has been tremendous and has been supported by a very talented team of industry professionals.  The Bottleneck family looks forward to being a part of your community!