Crimson Lounge interior

Hotel bars really haven’t taken off as drinking destinations in this city-which I’ve never quite understood-but my hunch is that Crimson Lounge may start to change that. The new bar in the luxurious Hotel Sax Chicago is not your typical lobby lounge; it doesn’t even resemble the Kaz Bar that held court back when this was the House of Blues Hotel-you know, before the $17 million renovation.

Crimson Lounge is total opulence. Red-tinted mirrors line the back bar; red-hued furniture contrasts with the walnut floors; and a spicy scent, created especially for the place, wafts throughout.

The bar’s opening party was last Thursday night, and let’s just say the folks behind the Hotel Sax know how to host a top-notch bash. Cocktails were on the house all night, as was the Champagne I located (and horded) at a hidden back bar with a short line (hello, next-day hangover). Celebrity DJ Samantha Ronson spun at a booth in plain view of the partygoers, who in turn couldn’t keep from staring at Lindsay Lohan’s BFF. Ronson, who has a monthly residency at Crimson Lounge, is a petite, androgynous-looking thing and is a bit on the shy side, although she did chat with my good friend, who we’ll call Lola. “I fucking love Chicago,” Ronson told Lola while sneaking drags from her secret cigarette (the bar doesn’t allow smoking). Ronson offered no news on Lohan’s latest travails, but then my sleuth Lola brought up DJ AM, Nicole Richie’s former fiancé and a regular mixmaster around Chicago.

DJ Samantha Ronson at the grand opening of Crimson Lounge

“AM isn’t this busy when he DJs,” Lola pointed out to Ronson, to which Ronson replied, diplomatically: “No, he is; I have the same setup as he does. He’s just as busy. I DJ with him all the time.” Keeping it real, that Ronson.

There was even more fun going on in one of the glass-enclosed, bouncer-guarded VIP rooms: R. Kelly was inside, and Smokey Robinson was rumored to be coming by (I saw his name on the guest list). We finagled our way in somehow, breezing past the Phoenix Suns’ Shawn Marion, the Bulls’ Ben Gordon and Bear Jerry Azumah (Azumah’s at just about every opening anyway).

It was quite a night-but no match for our partying stamina. So, we hopped the party bus shuttling people from Crimson to late-night drunk fest RiNo, where we snagged seats at a table. But even I have to quit sometime, and before long I was pretty much done for the night; I sat quietly drinking water while the party continued around me. Word to the wise: Don’t wear four-inch heels to bar openings. And no matter how great a find a hidden bar is, go easy on the free Champagne.


Photography: (Image 1) Courtesy of Hotel Sax Chicago; (Image 2) Neal Weisenberg