Just in case Google isn’t creeping you out enough with its access to, oh, all information in the known universe, it is now peering into hundreds of Chicago restaurants, nightclubs, shops, gyms, and salons.

Google Business Photos, which quietly launched in the city two years ago, is about to expand exponentially. The company just signed a deal with Rosemont-based VHT Studios—the third Google-approved photography agency in Chicagoland—to photograph the interiors of as many local businesses as possible. Says Soufi Esmaeilzadeh, a partnership-development manager at Google: “360-degree tours of business interiors tie in to our overarching maps goal: to create the most comprehensive map of the world possible.”

Orwellian? Sure. Helpful when trying to figure out if that new boîte your coworker keeps prattling on about is right for a romantic rendezvous? Of course.

VHT isn’t supplying this service out of the kindness of its heart, however. Businesses get charged $595 a pop, which includes a photo shoot and creation of the virtual gallery. In September, a week after VHT sent an army of college-student salespeople door-to-door, nearly 100 neighborhood businesses had signed on, according to a VHT spokesperson. They join a number of local spots with virtual tours, including three-star restaurant the Publican and Wicker Park hot spot Piece.

Not on the list: the Office, a secretive speakeasy hidden beneath Grant Achatz’s restaurant the Aviary. You’ll still need to charm the right hostess to explore that one.


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