(Left) Waitresses double as dancers at Manor; (right) the main staircase, inside Crescendo
Forget bottle service. From elitist seating policies to personal butlers, a new wave of clubs is upping the ante of what Chicagoans will tolerate-or rather, clamor for-as our nightlife standard. VIPs, prepare to be fawned over. Everyone else, get ready to feel like a schlub.
Case in point: Behind solid oak doors marked only with a crest, the new River North club Manor holds high court at the old Pasha address (642 N. Clark St.), courtesy of the team that brought us the late-night hang RiNo (343 W. Erie St.). “What sets us apart is our service,” says co-owner Michael Bisbee. “We strive to give our guests the royal treatment, and go above and beyond.” To that end, Bisbee’s business partner, Michael Kaulentis, points to the club’s “personal butlers” and shoe-shining service. Bisbee and Kaulentis plunked down a chunk of dough for the project: $1.5 million total, from the U.K.–imported stone for the club’s interior walls to the $150,000 sound system designed by the U.K.’s Funktion One.
While the owners have enlisted longtime promoter Tony Macey to bring in an exclusive crowd on Thursday nights, the rest of the club’s formula is straight out of the RiNo playbook: young girls wearing next to nothing and guys looking to impress them. In fact, unless you’ve bought a bottle at Manor, you can’t even stand near the tables, much less sit at them. All seating, and more than half of the club’s floor space, is roped off for high rollers. “I don’t like the segregation or the feeling of everyone watching me from the other side of the rope,” one table sitter tells me.
You won’t hear most VIPs complaining. Special perks for “select clients” include a downstairs private restroom with a lounge. And, come fall, owners hope to open an even more exclusive 2,000-square-foot space on the club’s third level, where the select few can drink until 4 a.m. Meanwhile, patrons can hop a party bus to RiNo when the rest of Manor shuts at 2 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays (3 a.m. on Saturdays)-giving the big-spending sleepless set even less incentive to call it a night.
… Or Just Passing Through
Nearby, at the modern, Moroccan-inspired Crescendo (222 W. Ontario St.), a new club in the old L8 space from the folks behind Reserve (858 W. Lake St.), comparable amenities apply-shoe-shining, curbside service-without a line being drawn between bottle buyers and non. Here, reserved banquettes blend in among the plebe partyers. “We have a very large bar in the front of the house where people often find refuge from high tabs,” says owner Tony Demasi. “The space is designed to flow so you have a comfortable experience.” A similar mindset went into the musical program created by DJ AM, who holds a monthly residency at Reserve and will make frequent appearances at the 4 a.m. Crescendo. “Lighter lounge music allows [patrons] to enjoy conversation and food earlier in the night,” Demasi says, “and then dance and get closer to people later on.” Get closer to people? As in, on the same side of the club? Sounds downright democratic.
Photograph: Chris Guillen; Illustration: Alexandra Compain-Tissler