Ridgewood Tap, a local bar across the street from the Homewood Metra station, was filled with patrons on Sunday, Oct. 9. It was the last night the bar was operated by owner James A. Riggs, who retired after working there for about 50 years.
Riggs worked at Ridgewood Tap since he was a child. Judy Riggs, his mother and the previous owner, passed away in July. Riggs said it was time for him to retire.
“It’s an actual neighborhood place where everybody does know your name,” said Joe Janowick who was at the closing night celebration.
“I met a lot of lifelong friends here,” Jason Moreland said.
“Time of Your Life” by Green Day played on the jukebox, a song about remembering all the good times you had with the people you’ve known and who have passed on.
“I think they played that song for a reason,” Riggs said.
Riggs’ father bought the bar in 1965, the year Riggs was born, and he later bought the building at the corner of Ridge Road and Harwood Avenue in downtown Homewood.
“This building is one of the oldest buildings in Homewood – businesses too,” Riggs said.
After his father died in 1984, his mother became the owner of Ridgewood Tap, and he eventually became the manager, Riggs said. He said that was when he started bartending.
“Back then, you could be underage and working at a bar. They changed it right after,” Riggs said. “I was cleaning up the place when I was eight. I was brought up here.”
His mother was still the owner of Ridgewood Tap when she passed away on July 6, Riggs said. He said he’s now ready to retire. His family has owned the bar for 57 years.
“It’s been a long road,” Riggs said, before admitting he was getting choked up. “It’s time to move on.”
Riggs said he’s used to seeing more than 30 people on a typical day, and he’ll have to adjust to only seeing one on some days. He said at Ridgewood Tap, he’s met thousands of people, including “people of all shapes, sizes and colors.” Riggs said hundreds of patrons he’s known personally have passed away.
“As a bartender, you have an open ear. And they’re going to tell you all their problems. A lot of people don’t realize that you have your own,” Riggs said. He said that sometimes a regular customer would come into the bar, and he could tell just by looking at them that they’ve had a bad day. “It’s not a really hard physical job. It’s more of a mental job.”
Married couple Karl and Missy Jilek said they met at Ridgewood Tap. They said that since moving to New Lenox, they don’t go to Ridgewood Tap as often, but they attended its closing night celebration.
“I met my husband here 13 years ago on a whim. We actually grew up on the same street in Homewood but never met – and never went to high school at the same time because he’s a little bit older. But then we met here,” Missy Jilek said.
“She was with a group of friends. I was with a group of friends. And we just started hanging out together,” Karl Jilek said, adding that Ridgewood Tap’s “got a bad rap every now and then, but I used to call it home.”
Riggs said he sold the whole building and the bar. He’s expecting another bar to replace Ridgewood at the location.