Relax: It’s just a bar, not a sign of the neighborhood going down the drain. That’s the underlying sentiment behind the little lounge that could, once called Pharmacy, now called Relax Lounge (1450 W. Chicago Ave.). After seven months of waiting for its liquor license, the rock ‘n’ roll-inspired West Town lounge will open to the public next Tuesday, July 17th.
The delay, owners say, was due in part to neighborhood residents petitioning against the bar, fearing the addition of a dingy dive to the ‘hood. But Relax is in keeping with the burgeoning area’s other cleaned-up hipster hangs, Five Star and Sonotheque, both of which draw a slick, grown-up crowd and help drive business into the area. After inviting residents to a series of open houses and generally making nice (not to mention sitting through two hearings with the liquor commission), co-owners David Lehtman and Brian Eldridge received word on July 3rd that their license had come through. “I had a sense of relief, excitement, and victory,” Lehtman says.
Name change notwithstanding, people will call it whatever they want-Pharmacy, Relax, or even Rx. There’s nary a name identifying the bar’s interior or exterior. “The only thing marking the entrance is a neon green cross above the bar, which hasn’t changed,” says Lehtman.
If you can’t make opening night on Tuesday, the owners are planning a grand-opening bash for Saturday, July 21st, featuring a 10:30 p.m. DJ set by their pal, rock ‘n’ roll bassist Johnny Colt. “He’s coming back from Atlanta to help us celebrate the opening,” Lehtman says. We can already hear the sigh of relief.
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Never a dull moment in clubland.
Two other nightlife establishments are going through their own struggles: Crescendo (222 W. Ontario St.), reviewed in my Nightspotting column in Chicago‘s August issue, and Reserve. “They’re closed temporarily until everything gets sorted out,” an insider tells me. In light of the fraud complaint brought against owner Tony Demasi a couple of months ago by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, we’ve been waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop.
But the closures should be relatively brief. Michael Bisbee and Michael Kaulentis, owners of the competing clubs Manor and RiNo, will oversee Crescendo and Reserve’s operations. “They have a management agreement,” Lindsay Hays, of Grace Public Relations, confirmed Wednesday. “They are managing the places but do not have any ownership. Crescendo should reopen next weekend; Reserve will be open in a few weeks.”
It will be interesting to see how these two young nightlife entrepreneurs juggle four clubs that all vie for the same cash-er, crowd.
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Looking for ways to heat up your weekend? Chicago nightlife is taking it outdoors:
Thursday, July 12th: English, the new pub ‘n’ grub from the Eat Well Drink Better folks (Grand Central, Central, Bar Celona, Union Park), holds its grand opening tonight. Although the party’s officially for media and hospitality-industry folks, anyone will be able to walk in-and with three levels, there will be plenty of room to roam inside the bar.
Friday, July 13th: After throwing a private reception tonight (Thursday) for the cancer-support group Imerman Angels, featuring Jim Belushi and his band, The Sacred Hearts, the much-anticipated “playground for grownups” Martini Park opens to the public tomorrow, Friday the 13th.
Chicago is this year’s chosen city for the “world’s largest PJ party,” a.k.a. the second annual Victoria’s Secret Pink Party, taking place Friday at Northerly Island’s Charter One Pavilion. DJ AM spins at 7:30 p.m.; Fergie performs at 9 p.m. Also in attendance: Laguna Beach bombshell Kristin Cavallari and her boyfriend, Nick Zano. Doors open at 6 p.m. For more info and to download a free ticket, visit vspink.com/pjparty.html.
Saturday, July 14th: If you miss your chance to see AM on Friday, you can catch him performing live Saturday (just south of Castaways, time TBA) at Chicago Sport and Social Club’s third-annual Volleywood Beach Bash, noon to 7 p.m. on North Avenue Beach (1600 N. Lake Shore Drive). In addition to an all-day volleyball tournament open to the public, a “battle of the bars” mini-tourney will pit some of Chicago’s most popular nightclubs against each other; participants include English, Rockit, John Barleycorn, Plan B, The Kerryman, Victory Liquors, and Five Star). To register to play and purchase tickets for the party, visit chicagosocial.com/events/view/7.