What Is The Other Side?


The Other Side is a sober bar dedicated to providing members of the recovery community with a place to socialize and let off steam in a safe, positive, substance-free environment. It’s a place where you can relax and have a good time without the pressures and risks of a traditional bar or club.

It’s also a part of a wider network of services developed for the community by our parent organization, New Directions Addiction Recovery Services (NDARS). The story of The Other Side really starts with the story of NDARS.

Read on to learn how NDARS and The Other Side started and how far we’ve come.

Who Are NDARS and The Other Side?

NDARS is a nonprofit that serves the drug and alcohol addiction recovery community in McHenry County and Chicagoland by providing advocacy, housing, entertainment, support groups, and other services. This registered 501(c)3 delivers those services through entities including The Other Side, Wake The Nation, and New Directions Sober Living. Together these form a network of services targeting different aspects of substance abuse and addiction.

Thomas Johnson and his father Thomas W. Johnson, Sr. founded NDARS in May of 2010 with the mission of providing a comprehensive system of support for the recovery community goal. Their initial goal was to establish a treatment center in McHenry County. However, the State of Illinois was in the process of cutting spending on addiction treatment programs by 30%. Competition for resources was intense, and they began looking for someone to partner with.

Chris Reed got sober in 2009 and shortly afterwards started a construction company. The company soon leased an office with a 2,500-square-foot space attached to it. Slowly, people that had helped Chris get sober started to spend free time gathering in the warehouse after their 12-step meetings. Over time, this became a place for Chris and his friends in recovery to hang out and unwind.

When Chris and the Johnson family became familiar with each other’s projects, they teamed up to turn this warehouse space into a fully-fledged sober bar called The Other Side. This would become the flagship program of NDARS’s mission to serve the recovery community.

How Did The Other Side Become What It Is Today?

Improvements were made to the location and more people began to come. A bar was built, a pool table came in, speakers were installed. They began to hold themed sober parties once a month and draw over 100 people on a regular basis to these events.

Yet all this was put to a halt in September of 2012 by the City of Crystal Lake. The city said the property was not zoned for what was happening, and wasn’t fitted with the appropriate safety features

In response, Chris and the others decided to take the steps necessary to rezone the unit. The approval process and the list of required renovations would cost just shy of $50,000 in total, but the Chicago Tribune ran a front-page story about their efforts. This raised awareness of the project around the country. The money was raised and the renovations were complete in 3 months. The Other Side opened officially on April 22nd of 2013.

Today, The Other Side remains the flagship program of NDARS alongside Wake the Nation and New Directions Sober Living. Chris Reed, Michael Ledvora, Joe Bongiovanni, Nick Castagna, Brady Coleman, and Ashley Buffano comprise the current board of directors. These young leaders are continuing carrying the mission of NDARS and The Other Side forward into a new era. Join us as a volunteer or just for a fun night out and see what we’re all about!


The goal of our organization is to continue to create entities underneath the NDARS 501c3 that all work together to provide self sustaining resources for people dealing with substance abuse and addiction. We want to carry a consistent message of hope and recovery thought all of our organizations. There is much left to do but we are off the a great start.

Are you or someone you know struggling with addiction?