“It was a crazy hug”

ANDERSONVILLE – For Elias Majid, owner of Eli Tea Bar, any concerns about whether a tea-centric “sober bar” would work in Chicago was quickly dispelled over its opening weekend.

A trolling bingo event at the Andersonville spot this weekend was sold out, and a pop-up with a Michigan pie company also nearly sold out, Majid said. It comes after a smooth opening two weeks earlier that saw around 45 customers lined up outside.

“Our smooth opening was not smooth,” said Majid. “It’s been a crazy hug.”

Eli Tea Bar opened Friday at 5507 N. Clark St. as Michigan’s second coffee outpost. The store offers 100 loose-leaf teas, as well as a full menu of specialty drinks, but Majid hopes the company will be known as much for its drinks as it is for its goal of creating a sober and welcoming meeting space for LGBTQ people.

Eli Tea Bar is open until 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on Saturdays. It will stay open until midnight closer to summer to provide an alcohol-free oasis for the queer community, whose late-night social options have a heavy alcohol focus, Majid said.

“The only late night option is bars,” said Majid. “We immediately had an influx of sober customers. It’s something that interested a lot of people, being in a space that’s not going to trigger them. “

Credit: Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago
Elias Majid serves tea at the Eli Tea Bar, 5507 N. Clark St., Andersonville on December 20, 2021.

Majid founded Eli Tea Bar in 2012, selling his loose tea blends at farmers’ markets and pop-ups. Majid opened the flagship cafe in Birmingham, Michigan, in 2014.

Chicago, especially Andersonville, made sense for the second location because of its strong LGBTQ community and because it’s an international hub where Majid could further develop his business, he said. Majid is also an alumnus of Loyola University in Chicago, so he is well acquainted with the Andersonville small business community.

“It’s about creating something tasty, about creating the whole vision of what tea coffee can be,” said Majid. “I think we’ve really hit the nail on the head.”

Credit: Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago
The counter at the Eli Tea Bar, 5507 N. Clark St., Andersonville on December 20, 2021.

The Eli Tea Bar serves matcha, bubble tea and a rotating menu of specialty drinks. A few coffee drinks are also available, as well as non-caffeinated drinks. It sells baked goods from The Spoke & Bird, based in South Loop, and plans to add a small menu that includes grilled cheese, Majid said.

Clark Street Cafe features a tea bar and retail space selling tea sets, loose leaf tea blends, brewing equipment, and Eli Tea Bar products. Behind the sales area is its lounge area, with space for a small stage which will be built this winter.

The colorful lounge area will host weekly events, with the full list of programs likely to begin closer to summer, Majid said. There are plans for live music, trivia, drag bingo and a “Powerpoint Night”, where guests make a five-minute presentation on one of their passions, with a winner chosen by the audience.

“We wanted to make sure we’re not just doing it to host events,” said Majid. “I don’t want this to be just a flat open mic night.”

Credit: Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago
Elias Majid poses for a photo behind the counter at Eli Tea Bar, 5507 N. Clark St., in Andersonville on December 20, 2021.

If Majid gets what he wants, Eli Tea Bar will have a presence in Chicago beyond its Andersonville storefront. The company also wholesalers and he hopes to get his brand of tea blends in other cafes and restaurants.

To do this, the company launched a fundraising campaign on the Mainvest platform, seeking $ 100,000 in funding. Mainvest allows investors to contribute as little as $ 100 and offers a return on investment that keeps the money off Wall Street and into the neighborhoods.

So far, $ 53,000 has been raised by 41 investors. The campaign ends on December 31. For more information, click here.

Majid said he had applied for business loans for his expansion, but could not find a favorable deal. Once construction of the store is complete, the new funds would expand its inventory and revive its wholesale efforts in Chicago.

“I want members of our community to get involved in the business,” he said. “They are our spokespersons.

Eli Tea Bar is open from noon to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

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