Vertigo Sky LoungeNovember 17, 2011
Hotel Bar of the Year Entry
Name of Bar: Vertigo Sky Lounge
Ownership/Parent Company: dana hotel & spa
Square Footage: 2,500
Open Date: Oct. 1, 2008
Vertigo Sky Lounge, occupying the 26th floor of the dana hotel and spa, gives a taste of the high life in an exclusive penthouse environment. Located in the heart of Chicago’s River North neighborhood, Vertigo Sky Lounge features wrap-around floor-to-ceiling windows with breathtaking views of the historic State Street below. One glance of the skyline and it is easy to see why both the lounge and Dana hotel were previously chosen for the Conde Nast Traveler Hot List and were recently named to the 2011 Conde Nast Traveler Readers Choice award.
The main seating room, designed with comfort and flexibility in mind, seats up to 150 guests on a mixture of sofas, highboys, end chairs and pedestals. Once a secluded VIP area, Vertigo’s signature “chill room” space now features a classic blackboard wall, supersized rectangular windows with panoramic views of the skyline, and a 20 ft. full service bar doubling the lounge's serving capacity. All of the table and bar tops are enhanced with the 100% sustainable product referred to as Kiri wood. Kiri wood, from the paulownia tree, is praised not only for its striking natural grain, but for being both lightweight and strong, with an ability to avoid warping.
Vertigo Sky Lounge’s outdoor area (approximately 1,000 square feet), the only in the city open year-round, features 12-foot-high glass with “in-the-midst” cityscape views. Seating includes abstract shaped benches made of stacked blocks of cedar and cypress wood. Round globe lights overhead cast a soft glow adding to the ambiance. A large gas-powered fire pit filled with sparkling crystals completes the look of the outdoor atmosphere.
In the winter of 2011 Vertigo Sky Lounge revolutionized the concept of Chicago nightlife with the launch of their fully customized winter patio. Fire and Ice transformed the 1,000-square-foot patio to feature a fully functioning ice bar. From January through April patrons fought the chill and warmed up in the lounge’s plush robes, complimentary fur coats and helped themselves to a menu of signature fire shots. Menu highlights included the Cookie Monster (a mixture of Kailua, Irish cream, and a splash of 151) and the Flaming Dr Pepper (mixture of amaretto and 151 dropped into a pint of Guinness). Patrons feeling especially bold sampled Vertigo’s Flaming Irishman and Jaeger bombs. Quickly becoming a media favorite the ice bar received a full page feature in Chicago Social Magazine and secured coverage in The Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune, Thrillist, Biz Bash and NBC Chicago.
Vertigo Sky Lounge is known not only for their interior décor and year round patio but for extravagantly themed events. Halloween at Vertigo Sky Lounge features the sinister transformation of the dana hotel and spa into the Bates Motel, a visual attraction unlike any other. The scene seemingly ripped straight out of a classic horror film incorporates a macabre revamp of the lobby, three days of haunted hotel floors, an elevator ride to remember, and a “rear window” murder across the way that leaves guests speechless. Vertigo Sky Lounge works closely with various local charities to host events regularly including the Golden Apple Foundation, Red Cross, Cure for Epilepsy, Almost Home Foundation and the My Blue Grace. An estimated $50,000 was raised for charity during the 2011 year alone.
It’s not just Chicagoans that have grown to love the River North lounge. Celebrities are known for flocking to the hotspot while in town for filming or for promotional appearances. Vertigo is regularly featured as one of Chicago’s top ten celebrity hangouts by the Chicago Tribune, was chosen by OK! Magazine to host their 5th Anniversary event in Chicago and has had sightings grace the pages of US Weekly, People Magazine and Star Magazine. The lists of celebrities who have visited include Channing Tatum, Common, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian, Colin Egglesfield, Kanye West, Harry Potter’s Tom Felton, "Jersey Shore’s" Sammi Sweetheart, Mark Paul Gosselaar and Ice –T.
What keeps patrons coming back for more? The drink menu and impeccable level of service! A top tier menu of house specialty cocktails is paired with a select beer and wine list. Some of the signature drinks offered include The Honey Bee (Flor de Caña dark rum, lime juice and Acacia honey); the Pink Lady (Tanqueray gin, grenadine and a touch of cream); the Peach Pussycat (Maker’s Mark bourbon, peach schnapps, pineapple juice and cherry); and the Barbarella (Cabo Wabo silver tequila, St. Germain liqueur, ginger ale, mint and lime), all $11 each. Vertigo Sky Lounge also was the first to carry new top of the line products in Chicago like the Beau Joie Champagne, complete with copper casing. Also served up is an assorted menu of modern Asian dishes, prepared by aja, the hotel’s ground-level restaurant. Ideal for sharing, Vertigo Sky Lounge offers Kobe Sliders (three sliders with spicy Chinese mustard and house made pickles); Crab Cakes (fresh jumbo lump crab meat, sesame mustard, and daikon relish); maki rolls; and three desserts: Coconut Cream Bubble Tea Slushie, Aja Oreos, and Over-the-Top Sundae.
Staff of Vertigo Sky Lounge undergoes a rigorous training by a quarter master sommelier and certified mixologist with additional weekly training post hire. Highlights and focus include concept, food and drink overview, service standards, menu taste testing, and mock service simulations. The standards of training reflect the belief that what works best is casual yet attentive service by a qualified staff trained to put the patron first. The menu options found at Vertigo are average in price for comparable lounges/bars in the area and below average in price for rooftop bars. Offset against the venue’s ambiance, service, décor, frequent celebrity visits and thematic elements provide guests a strong return on any investment. It is the overall experience at Vertigo Sky Lounge that has attributed to its growth in annual sales. The hotel has seen a 25% increase in revenue annually with actual numbers at a 58% increase from October 09-October 2011.
In the end, the success of Vertigo Sky Lounge comes from its distinguished service and one of a kind experience. With market based pricing for food and drink, over the top events, celebrity sightings, and the exclusive year round patio, guests receive a taste of the high life that is accessible, affordable, and above all memorable.