The marquee of the Ramova Theatre in February 2024
The Ramova Theatre in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood is now open, featuring a concert venue, brewery and restaurant. Investor Chance the Rapper will be the new South Side venue’s first major performer at an all-ages show. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
The marquee of the Ramova Theatre in February 2024
The Ramova Theatre in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood is now open, featuring a concert venue, brewery and restaurant. Investor Chance the Rapper will be the new South Side venue’s first major performer at an all-ages show. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

🎧 Click the red listen button to hear Ramova founders Emily and Tyler Nevius on The Rundown podcast.

When Emily and Tyler Nevius bought the abandoned Ramova Theatre from the city for $1 in 2021, it was in disrepair. Four feet of water stood in the basement due to a leaky roof, and a thick layer of disintegrating plaster coated the floor.

The building had been sitting empty for nearly 40 years, but the husband-wife team, who were not seasoned developers before this project, had a vision to restore the Ramova to once again be the pride of Halsted Street, complete with a concert hall, brewery and restaurant.

The Ramova’s rebirth took more than $30 million, 49 investors and seven red-tape filled years, but the Spanish-courtyard-style entryway and theater are finally ready for a new era. After a soft opening on New Year’s Eve with a queer-friendly dance party, Friday brings the 1,800-person concert venue’s first big test: South Side native Chance the Rapper, an investor in the project, will play an all-ages show.

Emily and Tyler Nevius
Emily and Tyler Nevius purchased the Ramova from the city for $1 in 2021. The husband-wife duo live in the Bridgeport neighborhood, but were not developers before this project. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Last fall, the Ramova restoration grabbed headlines when some of its more well-known investors went public with their involvement. But Chance the Rapper, along with 28-time Grammy-award winning Quincy Jones and EGOT winning Jennifer Hudson came on early and had been quietly involved for years, said Tyler Nevius, who still works full time as a senior vice president at Endeavor — the giant entertainment company headed up by Ari Emanuel, brother of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

This week WBEZ toured the site as crews put the final touches on the space and tended to concession stands, stage and lights. Standing in the restored lobby, Emily Nevius pointed out the original ticket booth, which is once again fully functioning. Throughout the building, other historic pieces, such as old movie projectors and the original lighting control board, are on display.

Stained glass at The Ramova
A stained-glass window above the Ramova’s main entrance was unearthed during the restoration process. The shield, made up of various colors and sizes, has become a bit of a lodestar for the team. Developer Tyler Nevius has the design tattooed on his forearm. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Above the main entrance is a stained glass window that the crews discovered behind layers of plywood during the construction process. The image — of a yellow-and-blue flower with a multi-colored shield in the middle — has become so dear to the couple that Tyler has it tattooed on his forearm.

The Neviuses, who moved to Bridgeport as the project got underway, are the majority shareholders in the Ramova. Tyler said that, among the project’s 49 investors, the majority are from Chicago and just under half are from Bridgeport. The project was also aided by more than $9 million in tax-increment financing from the city, grants from the state and historical tax credits on the state and federal level.

In 2021, the Ramova was added to the National Register of Historic Places, a stamp that means more visibility but also strict guidelines. Architect Dan O’Riley, had to be particularly meticulous in keeping many things as they once were — down to raw concrete floors and the colors of the walls. The team did get approval to add two new balconies within the concert hall, which will bring those audience members closer to the architectural touches that adorn the walls — such as archways, faux windows and detailed moldings, all done in a Spanish style.

The Ramova, which is adored with Spanish-style motifs, was once a one-screen movie theater, which opened in 1929.
The Ramova, which is adorned with Spanish-style motifs, was once a one-screen movie theater. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Views of the main theater hall in the Ramova
The Ramova was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2021, which meant the team had to be meticulous in restoring the architecture to the way it once was. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ
The main theater hall at The Ramova
The concert hall holds 1,800 people. Behind the screen on the right side, there’s a private viewing space. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Behind one ornate screen on the wall is a private VIP space, where artists performing can have guests view the show without the audience knowing they are there.

In spaces that didn’t previously exist, such as concession stands or the bathrooms, the team could add more modern flair with pops of bright colors. The Neviuses also added to the property, purchasing adjacent lots from the city where the brewery and restaurant now sit. The brewery is in partnership with a Brooklyn-based brewery, Other Half.

“We tried really hard to find a Chicago brewery that we could work with and it just wasn’t the right time,” Emily Nevius said. “And then COVID hit and nobody was expanding.”

The Ramova originally opened as a one-screen movie theater in 1929. The theater closed in 1985, with Police Academy 2 as the last movie shown. But it wasn’t even on the radar of the Neviuses until a few years ago, when they were living in Brooklyn.

Exterior of The Ramova
The exterior of The Ramova reflects its past life as a movie theater; the last movie screened at the now-venue was ‘Police Academy 2.’ Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

The couple, who met as college students at the University of Illinois and have three young daughters, had friends from Chicago come to visit them in New York. They got to talking about what they would do if they didn’t have to work anymore. Emily and Tyler agreed: They’d want to open a music venue with a brewery on site.

The very next weekend, those friends were back in Chicago and relayed the Neviuses’ idea to Kevin Hickey, the chef at the Duck Inn in Bridgeport, which is a semifinalist for a 2024 James Beard award.

“You gotta do it here, you gotta do it here,” Hickey, a sixth-generation Bridgeporter, urged. Fast forward and Hickey, along with business partner Brandon Phillips, is now overseeing the food and beverage programs at the Ramova Grill.

The Ramova Grill at the Ramova Theate
The former Ramova Grill, which was operated separately from the theater, closed in 2012. Now, the spot — once known for its chili — is back open adjacent to the concert venue, and chili is again on the menu. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Already, the taproom and restaurant are open, with the taproom serving beer brewed by Other Half in their Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia facilities. Emily Nevius said they will be ready to start brewing in Bridgeport in the next couple weeks.

The taproom flows into the Ramova Grill, where offerings like “pizza in a cup” and “duck fat corn dogs” are on the menu. A neighborhood spot by the same name closed in 2012 and was known for its chili. That dish is back on the menu, but how much it tastes like the original is up for debate, Emily Nevius said.

Although connected to the theater, the taproom and grill are open to customers not attending a show. Emily Nevius said she sees it as a space that belongs to the neighborhood of Bridgeport. In addition to concerts, the Ramova team plans to host community events.

When asked if the project lives up to the initial idea they had back in 2017, Emily Nevius quickly responds, “this is so much bigger.”

Balconies at The Ramova
Ornate architectural details in the concert hall have been restored to their former glory. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ
The Other Half tap room
The onsite brewery is a partnership with Brooklyn-based Other Half Brewing. Right now, the taproom is serving beers brewed by Other Half in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. Emily Nevius said they will be ready to start brewing in Bridgeport in the next couple weeks. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ
Second floor of The Ramova
In a smaller, second-floor space, the Ramova is able to accommodate up to 300 people. Emily Nevius said she hopes this can be a space for up-and-coming artists to perform, as well as a spot for community events. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Courtney Kueppers is an arts and culture reporter at WBEZ.

The marquee of the Ramova Theatre in February 2024
The Ramova Theatre in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood is now open, featuring a concert venue, brewery and restaurant. Investor Chance the Rapper will be the new South Side venue’s first major performer at an all-ages show. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
The marquee of the Ramova Theatre in February 2024
The Ramova Theatre in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood is now open, featuring a concert venue, brewery and restaurant. Investor Chance the Rapper will be the new South Side venue’s first major performer at an all-ages show. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

🎧 Click the red listen button to hear Ramova founders Emily and Tyler Nevius on The Rundown podcast.

When Emily and Tyler Nevius bought the abandoned Ramova Theatre from the city for $1 in 2021, it was in disrepair. Four feet of water stood in the basement due to a leaky roof, and a thick layer of disintegrating plaster coated the floor.

The building had been sitting empty for nearly 40 years, but the husband-wife team, who were not seasoned developers before this project, had a vision to restore the Ramova to once again be the pride of Halsted Street, complete with a concert hall, brewery and restaurant.

The Ramova’s rebirth took more than $30 million, 49 investors and seven red-tape filled years, but the Spanish-courtyard-style entryway and theater are finally ready for a new era. After a soft opening on New Year’s Eve with a queer-friendly dance party, Friday brings the 1,800-person concert venue’s first big test: South Side native Chance the Rapper, an investor in the project, will play an all-ages show.

Emily and Tyler Nevius
Emily and Tyler Nevius purchased the Ramova from the city for $1 in 2021. The husband-wife duo live in the Bridgeport neighborhood, but were not developers before this project. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Last fall, the Ramova restoration grabbed headlines when some of its more well-known investors went public with their involvement. But Chance the Rapper, along with 28-time Grammy-award winning Quincy Jones and EGOT winning Jennifer Hudson came on early and had been quietly involved for years, said Tyler Nevius, who still works full time as a senior vice president at Endeavor — the giant entertainment company headed up by Ari Emanuel, brother of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

This week WBEZ toured the site as crews put the final touches on the space and tended to concession stands, stage and lights. Standing in the restored lobby, Emily Nevius pointed out the original ticket booth, which is once again fully functioning. Throughout the building, other historic pieces, such as old movie projectors and the original lighting control board, are on display.

Stained glass at The Ramova
A stained-glass window above the Ramova’s main entrance was unearthed during the restoration process. The shield, made up of various colors and sizes, has become a bit of a lodestar for the team. Developer Tyler Nevius has the design tattooed on his forearm. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Above the main entrance is a stained glass window that the crews discovered behind layers of plywood during the construction process. The image — of a yellow-and-blue flower with a multi-colored shield in the middle — has become so dear to the couple that Tyler has it tattooed on his forearm.

The Neviuses, who moved to Bridgeport as the project got underway, are the majority shareholders in the Ramova. Tyler said that, among the project’s 49 investors, the majority are from Chicago and just under half are from Bridgeport. The project was also aided by more than $9 million in tax-increment financing from the city, grants from the state and historical tax credits on the state and federal level.

In 2021, the Ramova was added to the National Register of Historic Places, a stamp that means more visibility but also strict guidelines. Architect Dan O’Riley, had to be particularly meticulous in keeping many things as they once were — down to raw concrete floors and the colors of the walls. The team did get approval to add two new balconies within the concert hall, which will bring those audience members closer to the architectural touches that adorn the walls — such as archways, faux windows and detailed moldings, all done in a Spanish style.

The Ramova, which is adored with Spanish-style motifs, was once a one-screen movie theater, which opened in 1929.
The Ramova, which is adorned with Spanish-style motifs, was once a one-screen movie theater. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Views of the main theater hall in the Ramova
The Ramova was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2021, which meant the team had to be meticulous in restoring the architecture to the way it once was. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ
The main theater hall at The Ramova
The concert hall holds 1,800 people. Behind the screen on the right side, there’s a private viewing space. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Behind one ornate screen on the wall is a private VIP space, where artists performing can have guests view the show without the audience knowing they are there.

In spaces that didn’t previously exist, such as concession stands or the bathrooms, the team could add more modern flair with pops of bright colors. The Neviuses also added to the property, purchasing adjacent lots from the city where the brewery and restaurant now sit. The brewery is in partnership with a Brooklyn-based brewery, Other Half.

“We tried really hard to find a Chicago brewery that we could work with and it just wasn’t the right time,” Emily Nevius said. “And then COVID hit and nobody was expanding.”

The Ramova originally opened as a one-screen movie theater in 1929. The theater closed in 1985, with Police Academy 2 as the last movie shown. But it wasn’t even on the radar of the Neviuses until a few years ago, when they were living in Brooklyn.

Exterior of The Ramova
The exterior of The Ramova reflects its past life as a movie theater; the last movie screened at the now-venue was ‘Police Academy 2.’ Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

The couple, who met as college students at the University of Illinois and have three young daughters, had friends from Chicago come to visit them in New York. They got to talking about what they would do if they didn’t have to work anymore. Emily and Tyler agreed: They’d want to open a music venue with a brewery on site.

The very next weekend, those friends were back in Chicago and relayed the Neviuses’ idea to Kevin Hickey, the chef at the Duck Inn in Bridgeport, which is a semifinalist for a 2024 James Beard award.

“You gotta do it here, you gotta do it here,” Hickey, a sixth-generation Bridgeporter, urged. Fast forward and Hickey, along with business partner Brandon Phillips, is now overseeing the food and beverage programs at the Ramova Grill.

The Ramova Grill at the Ramova Theate
The former Ramova Grill, which was operated separately from the theater, closed in 2012. Now, the spot — once known for its chili — is back open adjacent to the concert venue, and chili is again on the menu. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Already, the taproom and restaurant are open, with the taproom serving beer brewed by Other Half in their Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia facilities. Emily Nevius said they will be ready to start brewing in Bridgeport in the next couple weeks.

The taproom flows into the Ramova Grill, where offerings like “pizza in a cup” and “duck fat corn dogs” are on the menu. A neighborhood spot by the same name closed in 2012 and was known for its chili. That dish is back on the menu, but how much it tastes like the original is up for debate, Emily Nevius said.

Although connected to the theater, the taproom and grill are open to customers not attending a show. Emily Nevius said she sees it as a space that belongs to the neighborhood of Bridgeport. In addition to concerts, the Ramova team plans to host community events.

When asked if the project lives up to the initial idea they had back in 2017, Emily Nevius quickly responds, “this is so much bigger.”

Balconies at The Ramova
Ornate architectural details in the concert hall have been restored to their former glory. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ
The Other Half tap room
The onsite brewery is a partnership with Brooklyn-based Other Half Brewing. Right now, the taproom is serving beers brewed by Other Half in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. Emily Nevius said they will be ready to start brewing in Bridgeport in the next couple weeks. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ
Second floor of The Ramova
In a smaller, second-floor space, the Ramova is able to accommodate up to 300 people. Emily Nevius said she hopes this can be a space for up-and-coming artists to perform, as well as a spot for community events. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Courtney Kueppers is an arts and culture reporter at WBEZ.