Piano bar gets McHenry council approval, now on lookout for new location

Miscommunication cited for confusion on Pearl Street site

The Studio, 3316 Pearl Street, McHenry, on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. The location will not be the site of a future McHenry piano bar, according to the woman looking to open one in the city.

Jessica Cannon officially has a McHenry liquor license, but she will need to find a different location for her planned piano bar.

The McHenry City Council on Tuesday approved a license for Cannon’s Fox on the Run, set for 3316 Pearl St.

Third Ward Alderman Frank McClatchey was the only dissenting vote on the plan.

The piano bar idea was a surprise for Lucy Tonyan, who runs the Studio Art School at that location. A post to the art studio’s Facebook page Tuesday said Tonyan could not attend the City Council meeting, “where decisions about my life work will be decided.”

We have a lot of talent in McHenry – so many talented pianists and violinists. This would be a space for them to come and play.”

—  Jessica Cannon of the proposed Fox on the Run piano bar

That post led to residents contacting City Council members, Mayor Wayne Jett said.

“We were getting emails, ‘How dare you force them out?’” Jett said after the meeting.

Contacted Wednesday by the Northwest Herald, building owner Victor Wierzba said he has emails between him and Tonyan from late 2021 that indicated she planned to sell the business and wanted a month-to-month lease.

Neither was the piano bar a done deal.

“The viability of a piano bar ... I am not even sure if that would be possible [in the space],” Wierzba said.

Also reached Wednesday, Cannon said she is very early in the process of finding a location for a piano bar and now is looking for an alternative spot in McHenry.

“I would like to keep to downtown and walking [distance] from the riverwalk, the shops and the places that are opening up [in the center of McHenry],” Cannon said. “There are a lot of really good buildings in McHenry, and I am not worried about not finding a location.”

She said she wants to create an after-dinner lounge atmosphere that would showcase local talent.

“We have a lot of talent in McHenry – so many talented pianists and violinists. This would be a space for them to come and play,” she said.

When she finds another location, the City Council would have to amend the liquor license, Assistant City Clerk Monte Johnson said.

Cannon said she doesn’t want to take away from an existing business “and will continue to search for a location that is a better fit for the community.”

In his vote against the liquor license, McClatchey said he was concerned about parking in the area. Two other restaurants on North Riverside Drive – The Courthouse and El Diablo’s – are set to open soon.

Losing The Studio also would be a hit to McHenry, McClatchey said, noting that the art and pottery shop “caters to kids.”

It is not the council’s job to determine which business should be in the location, 5th Ward Alderman Shawn Strach said. “I am here to vote on what is in front of us tonight ... someone wanting to put a business in that location.”

Second Ward Alderman Andrew Glab said at the Dec. 18 meeting that he would not vote for additional liquor licenses unless it was an interesting proposal.

The piano bar is interesting, Glab said.

“I am a little familiar with this type of bar,” Glab said. “They don’t have huge amounts of traffic. You could wind up with a coffee shop [there] that has people in and out like crazy.”

The council also unanimously voted to approve a liquor license for Toast & Roast, 1250-1252 N. Green St.

Set to open in early March, the location has been under renovation for several months. Paper covering the restaurant windows since construction began were removed Tuesday, Jett said.