The Bikeriders: Is Stoplight Bar an Actual Bar in Chicago?

In Jeff Nichols’ ‘The Bikeriders,‘ members of the Vandals set up their headquarters at Stoplight Bar in Chicago. Serving as the outlaws’ regular haunt, the bar is the setting of several key scenes involving the motorcycle club’s president, Johnny Davis, and his posse of ragtag bike riders like Benny, Cal, Brucie, Zipco, and many more. It also plays an integral part in the first encounter between Kathy and Benny and their blossoming romance further down the line. As the heart of the Vandals MC, the establishment is an essential backdrop as far as the crime drama’s narrative is concerned!

The Real-Life Counterpart of Stoplight Bar

Stoplight Bar in ‘The Bikeriders’ has connections to a real-life establishment that used to serve as a social hub for the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, the inspiration behind the Vandals, named Stoplight Café. In Danny Lyon’s 1968 photo book of the same name, he captures several intimate and stylish black-and-white images of several club members at Stoplight Café, which was located in the town of Cicero in Illinois. Bikers often gathered and socialized in groups in the warm interiors of Stoplight, where they conducted business and club activities from time to time.

In reality, although there is no bar called Stoplight, the film uses it as a stand-in for the café, which was a favorite spot for the Outlaws. The establishment was reputed for its biker culture and appears as a backdrop in Lyon’s work from his time with the gang. In the years following the 1960s and 70s, during which it was popular among the Outlaws, Stoplight Café was closed and no longer exists as a business. However, its legacy and historical significance are faithfully preserved within the photographs of Lyon.

Finding Stoplight Bar in Lockland

For filming the scenes set in Stoplight Bar, the production crew used an establishment that was formerly used by the Vaughn-Hesley pharmacy on Dunn Street in the village of Lockland, Ohio. According to the narrative, the Vandals operate entirely as a group out of this bar, making it the central hub of the organization. As several chapters of the motorcycle club begin spreading around the country, the biker gang stays attached to Stoplight Bar, where Johnny serves as the president of the group. Todd Snapp, the owner of the former Vaughn-Hesley pharmacy building, hopes that the filming of ‘The Bikeriders’ in the village will help popularize the town’s businesses.

Image Credit: Google Maps

The Stoplight Bar repeatedly appears within the film, serving as a pivotal location for several scenes. In the film’s opening sequence, the bar is where Kathy and Benny meet each other for the first time, sparking their romantic interest in one another. It is also where Johnny conducts and manages the Vandals, holding conversations with all its members, including Kathy, when she comes to him with her issues. The place offers itself as a common ground for grievances as well as a celebration spot. Many outings, parties, and drinking fests are held in Stoplight, allowing everyone to gather and socialize as a group. Therefore, despite its roots in fiction, the bar can be traced back to the real Outlaws’ history and their presence in Stoplight Café, Cicero, Illinois.

Read more: Biker Movies Like The Bikeriders