When I first saw an announcement heralding the debut of the Bravo Zulu Lounge at this year’s Chicago Air and Water Show—officially my favorite weekend of summer; is anyone else already shivering over these practice flybys?—I didn’t get it. I wondered, “Like, Bravo the cable channel? What do I wear for a Real Housewives encounter at an air show?”
David Kennedy, of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, laughed at the question when I called him for the deets on the new lounge yesterday.
“It’s what fighter pilots say when they like something,” he explained. “At least I think so—let me Wikipedia it.” I heard typing on the other end of the phone call. “Yes. It is a naval signal meaning ‘well done.’”
After what Kennedy says were several years of requests from Air Show fans to provide some sort of private viewing area, the city decided to try a lounge concept this year at North Avenue Beach, in a smallish space that’s usually designated as a parachute landing zone. “We’ve cut into a bit of sponsor space, too, so the general public shouldn’t feel misplaced by this,” he explained.
Putting on a spectator event for two million people every year costs the city a pretty penny, though Kennedy won’t say just how many pennies are involved. “We’re fortunate to have some tremendous corporate sponsors,” he hedges. But the Bravo Zulu Lounge is essentially an experiment in revenue boosting, and if it works, we may see more such lounges up and down the lakefront during future air show weekends.
For $60 on Friday and $90 on Saturday and Sunday, Bravo Zulu ticketholders will thrill to the Thunderbirds’ high-flying antics from one of the best patches of real estate on the beach—though they won’t exactly be lounging. “The area isn’t all seats,” Kennedy says. “There’s seating for eating, and there’s standing room, too.”
We’re talking about the Air and Water Show here, so don’t expect 100 craft beers on tap. A BBQ buffet by city standby caterer Phil Stefani will be paired with all the Bud Light you can drink. “Well, all the Bud Light you can drink responsibly,” Kennedy adds.
The sweetest part of the deal? A guaranteed spot in the middle of the action, with restrooms close at hand. Tickets available here; bring your earplugs.
The After-Party: Just because the show’s over doesn’t mean the party is. After Sunday’s final sonic boom, River North’s Underground nightclub will host a Top Gun-themed night with servers decked out in aviators and jetfighter outfits. Aviation garb encouraged; prizes for best costumes. 10 p.m to 4 a.m, cover $20. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org, and ask about industry discounts.
Photograph: Courtesy of the City of Chicago