At the bar at Butch McGuire's
It’s still Christmas at Butch McGuire’s.

Stood up. That’s what I was last night at Butch McGuire’s on Division Street, nursing a Goose Island Green Line ($6) at the bar and making eyes at myself in the mirrored taps. “Yo, T!” I texted my friend. “Are we still on?” A while later, he wrote back: “I need 40 minutes.” And then, long story short, he never came.

That’s OK, I thought. I know how to be at a bar by myself, right? I texted another Gold Coast sidekick with the faint hope of recruiting some backup, then set to the task of entertaining myself. One thing was for sure: I couldn’t leave. The whole point of this mission was to kill time until nine p.m., the appointed hour for media types to get a first look at a new dance club across the street, Detention. Two words to keep you reading: Schoolgirl uniforms.

Meanwhile, I had the next best thing to a human companion: a notebook. A notebook is an amazing prop. It lends an air of mystery, making everyone around you a little nervous. Sometimes it prompts people to strike up conversations. “What are you writing?” they ask, flustered to see anyone wielding such ancient tools. “Oh, just some observations,” you say, jotting down the particulars of their outfits.

It was like going one month back in time, sitting there at Butch McGuire’s. Christmas lights and ornaments still dripped from the ceiling. The toy train chugged round and round overhead. Every time someone opened the front door, my tights-clad legs got a whoosh of 16-degree chill. Two women to my left heatedly hashed over someone else’s divorce in the kind of nasal accent I couldn’t stomach when I moved to Chicago a decade ago. To my right, a giddy blond and her male friend discussed the olden days with the bartender, who told them he’d been pouring drinks at McGuire’s for a long, long time. “I was here when Dublin’s used to be Arnie’s,” he said.

“I worked down the street at the Hamburger Hamlet,” said the blonde. Arnie’s, Hamburger Hamlet—neither rang a bell for this kinda youngster (well, younger than most of the patrons at McGuire’s, which is officially the only grown-up bar on Division Street). I ordered a cheeseburger. The red light on my BlackBerry flashed. Saved! My friend Robert was on his way over.

Girls in schoolgirl outfits at Detention
Early Britney lives on at Detention.

Overcome with holiday spirit at the sight of him walking through the door, I ordered us two Festivus beers for $4.50 each (actually Leinenkugel Red Ale, but a promotional deal lets McGuire’s call the beer whatever they want; stop in for specials and giveaways on Festivus night, February 1st). We gossiped happily until it was time to go to Detention. My only memory of the spot’s previous incarnation, Bar Chicago, is from when I landed in this city at age 22. Wearing powder-blue Abercrombie & Fitch shorts and trailing in the wake of my overly boisterous college boyfriend, I met a few cohorts from Kentucky there for a night of dancing in the window that used to hang over the street. At that time back home, there was also a Bar Louisville, and since we were all familiar with the brand, why wouldn’t we want to replicate the experience in a city 300 miles to the north?

Detention is also for 22-year-olds. I’m glad I toured it when the navy blue paint that covers nearly every surface was still drying, because once the real drinking, grinding, groping, and other such pursuits get underway, I’m unlikely to become a regular.

“What!? Really?” Robert exclaimed as we beheld the Detention girls for the first time. Clad in cheek-baring plaid skirts, white shirts tied in knots high above the midriff, and knee socks paired with six-inch heels, the schoolgirl-themed waitresses are Britney circa “. . . Baby One More Time”—times a million. “These girls are one step away from strippers,” Robert marveled, as we watched one bend over to scoot under the bar. Enviable abdominal muscles and silicone enhancements were everywhere.

“Where do they come from?” I wondered. “Do you ever see women like this on the L?”

We were briefly fascinated, but when the lights dimmed and the DJ launched into his first set, we grabbed our coats and hightailed it out. Those schoolgirls will no doubt make some bad boys glad to be punished starting tonight at the club’s official launch (doors open at 9 p.m.; cover is $20), but as for The Chaser and her dependable friend Robert? Let’s face it: School’s over, and we’re too old for Detention.