Sisters, Clodagh and Amy Lawless bring The Dearborn to Block 37 in Spring 2016
Ingrained with a keen sense of Irish hospitality, Clodagh Lawless’s restaurant career began at her family’s pub in Galway, Ireland, washing dishes in the back of the restaurant for the busy weekend crowds. Her parents, pioneers of hot pub grub in Galway nearly four decades ago, migrated to Chicago in the late 90s to open Wrigleyville’s The Irish Oak, where Clodagh—fresh off a post-graduate degree in sales and marketing—took the lead on the pub’s operations and administrative duties. Using The Irish Oak as a springboard for restaurant management, she joined her brother Billy Lawless Jr. and Billy Lawless Sr. at their acclaimed venues The Gage and Henri (later to become Acanto), located in a prime downtown location on Michigan Avenue. Although she had hands in all facets of the restaurants’ day-to-day tasks, she spent this portion of her career refining her understanding of Chicago’s elevated, chef-driven dining landscape. Transitioning from Wrigleyville to downtown, Clodagh honed her managerial skills through staffing the cocktail and wine programs with high-caliber bartenders, sommeliers and servers. Now in 2015, she's equipped with a strengthened understanding of operating high-volume concepts, and together with her sister, Amy, she prepares to step into a partner role to launch The Dearborn. This ambitious multi-million dollar project is slated to open in summer 2016, and will be located in the city’s quickly emerging Block 37. It’s the first time the sisters will step out from behind the scenes to take the lead on their own independent restaurant and lounge concept. Through her career, Clodagh has worked through the entire spectrum of Chicago’s dining landscape—from tending taps at mom and pop pubs, to developing award-winning wine and fine dining programs. Regardless of the venue, Clodagh’s insistence on genuine, good-hearted hospitality remains at the core of each and every project she takes on.
Growing up in Galway, Ireland, Amy Lawless began working at her family’s pub washing dishes, taking orders and running food at the age of 14. A dedicated crew member throughout her teenage years, Amy rowed her way into a scholarship at Boston University in 1998 before graduating with a degree in sociology and psychology. Her move across the pond inspired her father’s decision to transition the family’s longstanding restaurant business to the U.S., where he opened The Irish Oak in Chicago, Wrigleyville’s first authentic Irish pub. With hospitality playing an important role in Amy’s early years, she once again stepped into the family business, first working as a bartender before moving into a management position—where she tackled everything from training the host team to crafting some of the North Side’s preeminent whiskey cocktails. Taking pride in presenting friendly, hands-on service that brought customers back again and again, Amy soon joined her brother, Billy Lawless Jr., to work the full gamut of front-of-house duties at The Gage on Michigan Avenue. Now, Amy is preparing to embark on the next level of her career where she will be working alongside her sister Clodagh Lawless to open The Dearborn in summer 2016. Leveraging her existing hospitality acumen and stepping up as a partner in this concept, The Dearborn will present an elevated, urban American tavern experience to high-volume, downtown crowds in the heart of Chicago’s theatre district.