The owners of The Rookery (2109 W. Chicago Ave.) in Ukrainian Village have been horror movie fans for years, and recently turned the upstairs portion of their bar/restaurant into “Room 237”—an homage to one of their favorite films, Stanley Kubrick’s 1982 masterpiece The Shining. Another in a long line of mostly unauthorized tributes that have been, for lack of a better word, popping up all around town, their pop-up bar will be open Friday and Saturday nights through the end of March.
Amy Teri and her husband Chris Montgomery have owned and operated The Rookery since 2008. A few months ago they were approached by their friend, Chicago DJ and event promoter Heaven Malone, with the idea to remake the bar as a nod to both the movie and the 2013 documentary Room 237, which examined the film and Kubrick’s motivation behind it.
Teri and Montgomery already owned an area rug that featured the same pattern as the famous carpet in the Overlook Hotel—where the main character, Jack Torrance, works as a caretaker—along with some pictures. They added several other touches to turn their upstairs bar into the movie's fictional Gold Room, including gold wallpaper, gold light bulbs in the existing fixtures, and created a light fixture behind the bar much like the Gold Room's.
Once there, customers have the chance to sip bourbons and movie-themed cocktails like “The Hedge Maze” and “Redrum,” the latter of which contains rum, lemon and pomegranate juice to give it a red tint. Perhaps the biggest draw is the actors who Teri and Montgomery hired to portray the characters and mingle with patrons, including Lloyd the bartender, the Grady Twins, and of course, Jack Torrance himself.
Teri says the pop-up has gotten a lot of attention and attracted a lot of new customers—when it opened nearly 1,000 people showed up and had to wait hours to get into the 40-person capacity bar. A visit last Saturday by a reporter found the crowd down to a capacity size with no wait, which Teri said was good because the huge crowds had scared away some of her regulars.
Room 237 was the first pop-up event for the owners of The Rookery, but Teri said they are considering others in the future. And while no permission was officially asked for or granted by the filmmakers, the fact that no cover is being charged may have kept the bar from receiving any cease and desist letters. Malone and Teri both pointed out that the filmmakers who made Room 237 posted information about the event on their social media pages, thus giving the bar an unofficial endorsement.
Popup bars have been a popular trend for the past couple years around Chicago, and not all without a challenge by the films or organizations they were inspired by. The owners of the Emporium Arcade Bar in Logan Square staged a pop-up inspired by the Netflix series Stranger Things in the late summer. That ran for two months but thoughts of extending its run were nixed by a cease and desist letter from the company. West Loop Bar MONEYGUN turned itself into a TGI Friday’s on Halloween and received a humorous yet serious letter from the corporation letting them know it could not use any TGI logo or branding. In response, MONEYGUN changed the name of its event to “Wear The Flair.” Beauty Bar thought of turning itself into Zero Gravity, a popular Naperville juice bar that long catered to customers aged 16 to 23. Despite the fact that it closed last year, the owners of Zero Gravity threatened by a lawsuit, forcing Beauty Bar to change its pop-up to “Beauty Bar as a 90s suburban club.”
Others have worked things out. For one night in April 2017, Andy’s Jazz Club in River North converted to “Seb’s,” the fictional jazz club in the movie La La Land, in a partnership with the filmmakers for the movie’s DVD and digital release. The “Saved By the Max” pop-up in Wicker Park, an homage to '90s NBC sitcom Saved By The Bell, ran for a year, and along with network approval, had one of the show’s actors—Ed Alonzo—show up for its opening. After closing in Chicago, Saved by The Max moved to Los Angeles.
Malone, who has been involved in several pop-ups, said Chicago and Los Angeles seem to be leading the way with the pop-up phenomenon. Los Angeles because of the number of actors who live there and Chicago because people like to go somewhere new, Malone says.
By new, it can and usually means somewhere nostalgic. In December, Fitzgerald’s in Berwyn turned its SideBar into a pop-up tribute to Martini’s, the fictional bar in It’s a Wonderful Life; it was so popular that tickets had to be sold for admittance and promptly sold out. Other pop-ups in Chicago have included a tribute to the Cartoon Network’s Rick and Morty; a House of the Dead Halloween pop-up; and a Fake Shore Drive pop-up in tribute to the 10th anniversary of the hip-hop blog by the same name.
As Room 237 nears its ending, Teri says they are considering an expansion: turning their main dining area into a ballroom for the finale on March 31 to resemble the famous picture at the end of The Shining that depicts the Overlook Hotel’s 1921 July 4th Ball.