Stunning cityscapes, posh patrons: Hotel bars go from meek to chic
A warning, Chicago loyalists: Try to keep your Second City complex in check. Truth is, the hotel-bar-as-drinking-destination is one trend in which we've long lagged behind New York and L.A. But we're not only catching up; we're moving into the penthouse suite.
"Rande [Gerber, whose W Hotels bars include Chicago's Whiskey Sky and Whiskey Blue] revived the hotel bar genre," says Philipp Posch of Rebar, the new mezzanine-level lounge with spectacular river views in the Trump International Hotel & Tower (401 N. Wabash Ave.). "Everybody's banking on what Gerber built. He's the god of all this."
The heavens are about to get a lot more crowded. This summer welcomes three ultraplush hotel lounges with rooftop locations: C-View, slated at presstime to open in mid-June on the 29th floor of Affinia Chicago Hotel (166 E. Superior St.); Sky Lounge, projected to open in July on the 40th floor of Avenue Hotel (160 E. Huron St.); and Vertigo, opening July 4th on the 26th floor of Dana Hotel and Spa (660 N. State St.).
"It's about maximizing outdoor spaces," says Jody Pennette, CEO of CB5, the development company behind Vertigo. (All three spots have indoor and outdoor components—the latter open weather permitting.) Talk about raising the bar: Vertigo's name was chosen for the sweeping views. "We're playing to the 30-plus crowd," Pennette says of the 1,500-square-foot space, designed to resemble the most luxe of bachelor pads.
Rebar, meanwhile, caters mostly to see-and-be-seen women. "The female crowd makes or breaks an environment," says Posch, who believes a contemporary hotel bar's success is less about outward views and more about atmosphere. But his attitude might have something to do with Rebar's location: In the hotel-bar star wars, Rebar has made it only to the mezzanine level.
Photograph: Chris Guillen