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Meet Kyriakos 'Carl' Damianides, proudly at the helm of the Sky-Ride Tap downtown for 50 years

Meet Kyriakos 'Carl' Damianides, owner of the Sky-Ride Tap downtown for 50 years
Meet Kyriakos 'Carl' Damianides, owner of the Sky-Ride Tap downtown for 50 years 03:38

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Imagine working at a place 50 years and hoping for 50 more – all because of the people.

The owner of the Sky-Ride Tap is the embodiment of that very spirit.

The Sky-Ride Tap is little in size, and little known. But it's a Chicago staple. CBS 2's Brad Edwards dropped by and popped up a couple of Old Styles to learn about a legend.


You'll find Sky-Ride Tap at 105 W. Van Buren St., on the ground level of a two-story building called the Bock Building. The Chicago Board of Trade is across the street, and the Loop 'L' clatters overhead.

A lot of regulars have been coming for a long time. One regular, Steve, said he first visited in the summer of 1985.

And a name that everybody knows? That would be the owner, Kyriakos "Carl" Damianides.

Kyriakos "Carl" Damianides CBS 2

"He's here every single day, so anybody that comes here knows Carl," said Sky-Ride regular Larry Shippee. "There's no credit card. There's no tab. Carl's old-school."

CBS 2's Edwards talked with Shippee over an Old Style.

"This is like the best dive bar in Chicago," he said. "It's not a mixology place."

Indeed, when somebody asked for a whiskey sour, he got a laugh. Carl says he doesn't mix martinis either.

Is Carl offended by the term "dive bar?"

"Not at all," Carl said. "I'm proud of it."

Carl was a Greek soldier. He served his country, and then came to the U.S. and to Chicago – where a buddy of a buddy introduced to him to the then-owner of the bar. Carl took over as the owner after that introduction - 50 years ago.

The name Sky-Ride is a reference to an attraction at the 1933-34 Century of Progress Exposition.

Sky Ride Tower At The Century Of Progress
The setting sun shines through the rails of the Sky Ride Tower at the Century of Progress International Exposition (1934). The image originally appeared in 'A Century of Progress Chicago, 1934 World's Fair Souvenir Book' (published by the Regensteiner Corporation). Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago / Getty Images

"I worked seven days a week for 25 years -- 7 in the morning 'til 2 in the next morning," he said.

In that time, Carl married and raised three girls. He survived the seedy red-light district years of the south end of the Loop, and today's uptick in crime. But COVID did cause a loss in business.

"Just a couple months ago, I stop the bleeding," Carl said.

The proximity of trains -- including the Van Buren Street Metra Electric station -- has kept business coming.

"And I come here a lot because it's right by the train," said Steven.

It also helps that Sky-Ride has a packaged goods license to sell beer to consume off-premises.

"People get carry-outs because the train station's close by," said Shippee.

And Carl is well aware of commuters' needs.

"I keep the clock different time- 10 minutes fast, so they don't miss the trains," he said.

For security, Carl has an alarm system. But that's not all. Three baseball bats came with the place.

Kyriakos "Carl" Damianides has never had to use these security bats that came with the Sky-Ride Tap. CBS 2

"I've never used them," he said.

But after 50 years, has it occurred to Carl that it's time to get out?

"Not really," he said. "You know why? I love people."

Edwards: "You are an American success story. Do you believe you're an American success story."

Damianides: "Yes. And I love this country."

And it's in this little dive under the 'L' tracks that his country has loved him.

Carl says never, in 50 years, has he had a drink at work - and he's there every day ...

Sky-Ride is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. They're celebrating at the Sky-Ride on Thursday with specials all day. Again, they're at 105 W. Van Buren St., between LaSalle and Clark streets.

Tell Carl we said hi when you go.

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