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Light Fantastic

Let there be light: a new spot illuminates the West Loop scene


A clean, well-lighted place: bargoers lay claim to new West Loop spot Lumen.


They followed the light: Everyone from mods to punks to fashionistas came out to scout the grand opening of Lumen (839 W. Fulton Market), the new eco-conscious lounge-whose name is Latin for “light"-mixing art and architecture with media and technology.  

“Everything in here is a renewable material and runs on low-voltage, low-power consumption,” co-owner Peter Gogarty tells me of his ultramodern, 5,000-square-foot space, which opened in late April. Like every other converted nightspot in the area, Lumen is located in a former meatpacking factory. Unlike every other West Loop spot, the lounge’s green-friendly approach extends to its tables made of bamboo (“It’s not even a wood; it’s a grass,” Gogarty says) and a stunning LED installation that runs on less power than the average refrigerator and changes color according to movement in the room. The sound system is cutting edge, too, featuring a live streaming option with remote access available from anywhere in the world-meaning a DJ in London can pipe a live set in to the bar.

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“We’re trying to reinterpret what a lounge is,” says Gogarty, whose expertise, combined with that of his co-owners and high-school buddies Jason Freiman and Nick Podesta, ranges from restaurants to hotels to design, business, retail, real estate, construction, and art. Gogarty also helms the art collective M5, headquartered in its own 9,000-square-foot furniture and interiors gallery just down the block (855 W. Fulton Market), and was the driving force behind Lumen’s sleek design aesthetic, featuring a stainless steel bar and modular, gray flannel seating. Although one industry insider found all of the low-slung tables and couches hard to navigate, not to mention socially awkward (“I was able to see up some girl’s skirt who was sitting across from me because the seating is so low,” he says), feedback has been mostly positive, especially among those locals looking to stay ahead of the curve.

It’s a point in Lumen’s favor that, since opening, the bar has attracted a diverse crowd-not the same cookie-cutter nightlifers we’ve seen at every other new spot. And another nice touch: in place of the typical Men in Suits, Lumen’s owners have hired chic gal Anastasia Smith to run the door. Behind-the-bar staff doesn’t quite measure up to Smith maybe we weren’t scantily clad enough to get their attention), but drinks are creative and reflect the lounge’s luminescent theme. A number of the martinis ($12) come with the booze du jour, Pama Pomegranate Liqueur. One highlight is the Illuminate: Grey Goose L’Orange vodka, Pama, Chambord, and a splash of cranberry juice, garnished with a lemon twist.

And while the owners must have dropped a pretty penny on the state-of-the-art sound system, DJs aren’t the focus here, as befits a true lounge. From behind a bamboo wall, the DJ booth issues forth a soundtrack of downtempo, disco, experimental, and pop. Lumen is also hosting fashion shows and video installations: “We’re trying to remain fresh, always changing and evolving,” Gogarty says. “I want to get something people haven’t heard before. I don’t want to focus on what everyone else is doing.” And so far, Lumen hasn’t.

 

Photography: Chris Guillen

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