Taking Flight

An airport bar without the airport; A nightclub with real food; Celebrity beat…

“I think that travel and flight are still exciting to people,” says Marc Bortz, explaining the inspiration for his latest nightlife concept, Jet Vodka Lounge (1551 N. Sheffield Ave.). Bortz is probably best known for his late megaclub Circus, as well as for current destinations such as Hogs & Honeys, Sangria, and JP Chicago-all dotting the Weed Street District. (In case you’ve missed it, he’s also responsible for that traffic-stopping marquee on Hubbard Street foretelling the arrival of Cabaret, a new “cocktail boutique” set to open in October.) But baby boomers will likely recognize his last name: Marc’s father, Joe Bortz, owned Sally’s Stage, Doctor Jazz, and Area Code 312 back in the day. So it’s no surprise that during its opening week in July, Jet was already flying with A-list passengers who filled the elliptical, stark-white room, which feels like the inside of a pimped-out, first-class airplane cabin. The service adds to the ambiance-cocktail waitresses don sexy black stewardess-type uniforms. But the real draw is the vodka selection, all 134 varieties from around the globe. “Seventy percent of people who go out to our clubs drink vodka-so we’re creating something a little more fun with an international appeal,” Bortz explains. By “fun” he means 11 different flights, such as the Iron Man ($20)-grouping Skorp-pio, Altay Surprise Siberian, and Thor’s Hammer vodkas. During the media reception, guests were offered shots of some of the more exotic labels. Among them, my fave was the Player’s Extreme Carmel mixed with Red Bull ($7), which sent my pals and me soaring for the rest of our night, giving new meaning to the term “mile-high club.”

Ballo High

If you’re looking for the perfect place to celebrate a birthday with 20 of your closest friends, I’ve found it: Ballo (445 N. Dearborn St.), the new Italian eatery that doubles as a nightclub, by Alex Dana and Joe Farina of Rosebud fame. The food includes wood oven–baked pizzas, house-made pastas, and a caprese salad with mozzarella. But after midnight, eating plays second fiddle here to the shaking of booties under the disco ball in the center of the room. As the night gets later and the music pumps louder, the crowd resembles something plucked from an episode of Sex and the City, with more drinking than eating going on, and scene-sters pressing the flesh. The word is definitely out: on one recent night, Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush and The Apprentice’s Bill Rancic were slapping high-fives in a booth by the window.

Celebrity Beat

Jennifer Aniston was having cocktails and smoking up a cloud storm at The Peninsula Chicago with a friend, where she stayed while filming The Break Up. . . . Either Jeremy Piven has a weak bladder or his recent Emmy nom for “Entourage” has already gone to his head: while at Rockit Bar & Grill recently he budged a friend of mine in line for the bathroom, saying only, “I’m next.” . . . I partied with the celebs who came to town for Challenge for the Children. Former members of ‘N Sync who started the benefit in 1999-Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Joey Fatone, and Chris Kirkpatrick-along with actors Shannon Elizabeth, Beverly Mitchell, David Gallagher, Donald Faison, Taye Diggs, Shondrella Avery, and Alfonso Ribeiro and football players Roy Williams and Brian Urlacher, bowled at 10pin and b-balled at Allstate Arena. And some even boozed it up at Rockit and Le Passage, where I did shots with ‘N Sync’s Kirkpatrick.

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