Stu Zirin finds sunnier times in Puerto Rico, reflects on Chicago successes

Mon. August 30, 2021 9:29 AM by Ross Forman

chicago businessman stu zirin trades the snow for sunshine

photo credit // provided

‘If you would have told me a year ago that I was going to list my house and move to Puerto Rico, I would have told you that you were crazy,’ says Stu Zirin

Mother Nature has pushed yet another longtime Chicago resident to a sunnier setting.

Stu Zirin, a highly successful Chicago businessman with strong roots in the local LGBTQ community, boarded a one-way flight August 10 to San Juan, Puerto Rico – his new home.

“I have spent seven months in South Florida for the last several years and sometimes the weather would get into the 50s. That doesn't seem cold when Chicago was minus-10 (degrees), but it was still cold to me,” Zirin said. “I spent a month in Puerto Rico and fell in love with the island. The weather is consistently 70 to 80 degrees, and the people are wonderful. I am surrounded by beauty … it is like living in a postcard.”

Zirin was a business partner in multiple Boystown staples, such as now-closed Minibar, D.S. Tequila, Crispy Chicks, ColorLAB and more.

“If you would have told me a year ago that I was going to list my house and move to Puerto Rico, I would have told you that you were crazy,” Zirin said. “This was not a long-planned move. I just heard my inner self say, 'You should move here.'

“Sometimes you get a feeling and I have learned over time that, when the feelings are strong, you should follow your heart. People ask me if I am moving for a lover, or do I have friends on the island – no. I moved because my heart told me to.

“I love Chicago and the vitality of the city. Chicago has been good for me, and I'll miss it, but it's not like I'm going to prison, I will come back and visit as often as I like, but probably not in the winter.”

Zirin said he does not have a new job in Puerto Rico, nor is he retiring.

“At Pride In the Park (this past June), when I told a friend I was moving to Puerto Rico, they said I want to introduce you to a friend who is opening a club in Puerto Rico,” Zirin said. “(That club) is a 15-minute walk from where I live and neither of the partners have any bar or hospitality experience, so who knows what the future in Puerto Rico will bring for me.”

Just not snow, wind-chill or a polar vortex.

“I will miss my friends and family (in Chicago), but during quarantine I learned you can stay close to people and still not physically be near them,” he said. “I will miss the sense of community and the work that I was doing to maintain the geographic heritage of the LGBTQ community. I will miss the community organizations, like being on the board of Triangle Neighbors, the local neighborhood organization. I will miss my involvement with the police department being the co-facilitator of the community policing meetings and being on the board of North Halsted Business Alliance, and all the amazing people I worked with.”

Zirin said his favorite things to do in Chicago were walking along the lakefront, hanging out on North Halsted Street, and simply admiring the city's architecture.

“My role (in local businesses, such as D.S. Tequila,) will be different as I will not physically be there, but I will take on a consultive role and contribute to the business from Puerto Rico,” he said.

When asked his legacy to this city's LGBTQ community, Zirin said it includes maintaining the history of North Halsted Street.

“The geographic area of North Halsted played a major role in the coming-out process,” he said. “Boystown, as it was (known), was the area where LGBTQ people could live and socialize before there was acceptance by the mainstream. I don't think people realize just how important North Halsted Street was in the process. We have a vibrant street that marks our heritage, and I am proud that I focused my time and efforts to continuing this legacy.

“Just as the gay and lesbian agenda (in Chicago) has moved forward, we still need to do help the transgender community. I feel that Chicago has one of the most vibrant LQBTQ areas in the country, and the world; our hospitality district and legacy walk, Center on Halsted and The Senior Center are world-class.”

Zirin said he plans to contribute to the LGBTQ community in Puerto Rico, though he is not sure how, just yet.

On The Beach With … Stu Zirin

Favorite Chicago Memory: “Any (Northalsted) Market Days: the energy, the people, the fun.”

Upon Arrival in Puerto Rico: “(I had to get) a home set up, (with) plates, dishes, furniture, all the comforts we take for granted; I (was) starting from scratch, (but) I have enjoyed every moment, plus staying healthy, going for walks, learning the culture and two things on my bucket list: learning Spanish and learning how to paddle board.”

Winter in Chicago: “Is way too cold for me and takes away all the social activities that you can do outside. There is nothing like Chicago in the summer, the city comes alive. People walking, running biking on the lakefront. The D.S. patio filled with people having a great time. I'll surely miss that, but I'll be back for the Chicago summer.”

Puerto Rico: “When people are (here) on vacation, for the most part, they are in a good mood. When people are happy, there is a great energy. So, besides the beauty of the ocean, sandy beaches, the lagoon, palm trees, lush fauna, tropical breezes, there is a beautiful energy. I live where others vacation. The island is known in Spanish as 'Isla del Encanto,' meaning, the island of enchantment. Enchantment is a feeling of great delight. I am where I am supposed to be, and the word 'enchantment' describes it well. When you visit the Isla de Encanto, please look me up.”

Chicago: “I remember going to Sidetrack when it was just one store front and we sat on the beer (can boxes). I never thought then that I would have started a few businesses on the (same) street. A dear friend wrote the book 'There goes the gayborhood?” (where) I learned about how important the neighborhood was to the gay movement; that's when I realized the importance of our geographic history.”