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Grayslake saloon sold to longtime restaurateurs

The Last Chance Salo  Cafe located Center Street Grayslake. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

The Last Chance Saloon & Cafe located on Center Street in Grayslake. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 25, 2013 2:23AM

The Bowes family, prominent restaurateurs in Lake County, have purchased the Last Chance Saloon building at 129 Center St., in downtown Grayslake.

Former owners Gary Roberts Sr. and his son Gary Roberts Jr. had the place for 19 years before closing the business.

Much of the Old West-themed paraphernalia in the restaurant was sold after Thanksgiving, said Ursula Bowes. A few things regulars would remember, including a cigar-store Indian, a life-size cowboy minus a nose, and an antique wood-burning stove have been kept by the new owners, and will likely stay in the place.

Ursula, her husband Bob, and his two brothers and their wives —Mike and Caron Bowes, and Jack and Cheryl Bowes — own and operate Emil’s Tavern on Center, just east of the Last Chance, as well as Emil’s Pizza & Sports Bar in Mundelein, and Crossroads Restaurant and Bar of Ivanhoe.

Ursula explained the place would be remodeled and modernized, and the galley-style kitchen expanded.

“Our concept is still up in the air, but it could be either a steak house, or Italian (restaurant),” said Jack. The family is taking customer comments into consideration, said Ursula.

“We were looking at going elsewhere to start another business, but we really enjoy being in Grayslake,” said Ursula.

Jack added, “Grayslake is a great community, very vibrant, and it has a good downtown, and we’re glad we’re there.”

It’s not clear when the Last Chance first came to be, but according to Charlotte Renehan, president of the Grayslake Historical Society, the landmark building was constructed in 1902.

Lifelong Grayslake resident Pete Fassbinder, owner of Pete’s Precision Painting, said he recalls when the place was just a tavern “where the guys could get a shot and a beer.” At that time, there were only two places on the main strip where locals could go for a drink — Charlie’s, which was formerly Bill’s (tavern), and the Last Chance Saloon, he said.

After the owners acquired an adjacent dime store sometime during the late 1970s, the place expanded and began serving food, said Fassbinder.

Since then, Fassbinder would sometimes go for the Last Chance burger, the weekly all-you-can-eat fish fry or the Sunday morning brunch.

“I imagine this will be the topic of conversation for us,” said Ursula, who figures plans for the new place to be more specific after the new year.

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