At 11 o’clock on a Monday night in August, I’m pulling up to Boutique (809 W. Evergreen, 312-751-2900), Marc Bortz’s new Tibetan-inspired, three-tiered lounge in the old Dragon Room space. The place has been vacant for nearly two years, but at this moment it’s in the final stages of preparation for a September opening. Hundreds of bash crashers >>>>
|>> Team players: Bortz (left) and Monopoly at their members-only Boutique|
are gathered outside as I work my way to the front to give the door girl my name. Tonight is John Monopoly’s 30th birthday party, and it is invite only. Monopoly is a Chicago native and a long-time pal of Kanye West’s; currently he serves as the superstar rapper’s manager and CEO of his record label, G.O.O.D. Music. Now Monopoly can add “club owner” to his résumé, having joined Bortz as a partner in Boutique, which the two envision as the first of three members-only hip-hop clubs (they plan to open the others in New York and L.A. this year). Catering only to customers with memberships, Bortz says, is a way to keep the club ultraexclusive.
“If you’re not a member, you don’t get in,” Monopoly tells me. “If this were a hair salon, we would not take walk-ins. It’s by appointment only.” Although Monopoly lives in New York now, he travels often to Chicago, where from the late nineties till 2001 he was a club promoter, orchestrating Sunday-night parties at Bortz-run spots like Tunnel (later reincarnated as Dragon Room) and Biology Bar, and bringing in talent, such as a then-unknown rapper named Kanye West, to perform. “John was always ahead of his time, very progressive and entrepreneurial,” Bortz says. “He used to talk about Kanye, like, ‘Ya gotta hear this guy.’”
Thanks to Monopoly’s many high-profile friends in the music biz, look for his new party pad to be a gathering place when artists come to town. At Monopoly’s Boutique bash, Kanye West strolled in, along with hip-hop protégés Fonzworth Bentley, Shawnna, Lupe Fiasco, GLC, Consequence, and Sa-Ra, as well as Island Def Jam Music Group chairman L. A. Reid. As the night wore on and hip-hop music blared from the elevated DJ booth in the corner of the dance floor, West grabbed a mike in the VIP area and treated his friends to an impromptu rap session, just like in the good old days. The difference was that, this time around, hip-hop’s biggest player needed no introduction.
>> At BB’s: taking food seriously
Donnie Kruse has been there, done that. The man behind such nightlife institutions as Melvin B’s and Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap (a second Stanley’s, on Racine, was set to open in September) is at it again with his partner Jack Binyon; they opened BB’s (22 E. Hubbard St., 312-755-0007) in late August. (The initials are those of Jack’s late dad, Bud, who owned the legendary restaurant Binyon’s for nearly 55 years.) “BB’s is patterned after a popular trend in England, Ireland, and Australia-a gastropub, which means we take our food seriously,” Kruse says. The global comfort food menu has items such as fried risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto, jerk chicken wings with pineapple salsa, mini pulled pork sandwiches, and Stanley’s mac and cheese. But we went gaga over the Belgian beer system. One tower tap, encased in ice, pours Stella Artois and Bass; another dispenses harder-to-find ales such as Hoegaarden and Leffe. (Drafts go for $5; bottles of wine are $30 and under; and menu items top out at $20.) The warmly lit, 4,000-square-foot pub has beautiful custom-made leather booths and barstools, and seating for 100 outside. Before the place opened, Kruse threw an afterparty for hockey star Chris Chelios and his annual celebrity golf outing, Cheli’s Children’s Foundation; in attendance were Michael Jordan, Billy Corgan, Cuba Gooding Jr., Elisha Cuthbert, and Kid Rock, who treated guests to an acoustic performance of “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Leroy Brown,” and his own tune, “Cold and Empty.” We can’t wait to see what’s next.