Chicago’s Alhambra Opens as Nightclub on WeekendsNovember 11, 2010 By: Amelia Levin
The former Alhambra Palace restaurant, a massive, two-story — well —palace, of sorts, in a former Randolph Street warehouse that can hold up to 1,400 people, opens as a nightclub operation tonight. The weekend-night-only club (Thursday through Saturday), spans the restaurant’s existing Alhambra room, which is broken up into three levels — a dance floor on the first level, encircled by dining seats a few steps up and overhanging VIP sections that can hold up to 25 guests each with bottle service.
In the Alhambra room, the team installed a brand-new, state-of-the-art lighting and sound system equipped with laser beams, a smoke machine — the works. While the restaurant already has a dance floor (made of hardwood imported from Brazil) for belly dancers and other live entertainment, they’ll now use it for the nightclub on weekend nights while DJs spin a traditional mix of mashup, R&B, hip-hop and pop (a soft opening featured DJs Gus Karas and Billy The Kid). An elevated stage also offers opportunities for live performers and other entertainment, which also will include dancers in swings suspended from the 40-foot high ceilings.
“We were getting a lot of requests to stay open later and operate like a nightclub,” says Fareed Nobahar, general manager. “People would come in for dinner but not want to leave – it just seemed like a natural next step.” Since the dining tables are located around the center dance floor, it was an easy transition to go from restaurant to nightclub, which starts around 9:30 or 10 p.m.
Alhambra means red in Arabic, and the nightclub shows it. Saturated in ruby red colors, offset by hints of orange, green and purple, the vibrant, Arabian Nights-meets-Vegas-glitz-meets-French-club space also features plenty of mosaic tiling and marble, custom-commissioned artwork, waterfalls, thick curtains, mirrors, copper and more. “It’s like a museum in ways,” Nobahar says. In fact, the space was designed after the Alhambra Palace in Grenada, Spain, which was built in the 18th Century, he adds.
The restaurant/nightclub also consists of a 300-person capacity private event space (Marakesh Room) on the second floor. On the first floor, off to the right of the entrance, is the Babylon room, a loungy dining area with plush, big chairs, a long bar with seating for up to 50 and plenty of Moroccan inspiration, from the menu of tangines and kabobs to the décor — green, velvet curtains, handmade ruby red chairs, low-slung tables topped with Moroccan candles, a fireplace and ceramic floor. The restaurant menu also features some Mediterranean-inspired small plates reflective of traditional Spanish tapas (think warmed goat cheese in tomato sauce, ceviche) and creative plates like lambchop “lollipops” with a mint sauce. Wash it down with specialty Martinis and some exotic cocktails.