This full page picture of Rockit Ranch Partners, Billy Dec, Brad Young and Arturo Gomez, is part of a huge feature this Summer in Michigan Avenue Magazine celebrating their 10 Year Anniversary and how they led the creation of the coolest and most booming entertainment district in Chicago, which essentially means, in the world.
“When Billy Dec decided to open Rockit Ranch Productions 10 years ago with his partners Brad Young and Arturo Gomez, they tried to find something “as close as you could get to the Gold Coast without having to pay expensive rent,” Dec says. But they also wanted something distinctly different from the “sleek Euro nightclub feel” of the Viagra Triangle. While River North’s proximity to the Gold Coast, the Loop, public transit, and expressways made the area attractive, it was the sheer square footage available that made River North ideal for creative types who were trying to find unique spaces with high ceilings and lots of light. The trio found the space they were looking for in a former lamp factory on Hubbard Street, with a 75–foot skylight and unobstructed views. “Architecturally, it doesn’t get better than this,” says Dec, about the building that houses Rockit Bar & Grill.
While other restaurants and nightclubs have populated the district over the years, they were mostly one-offs. It wasn’t until Rockit Bar & Grill opened on Hubbard Street in 2004 that other restaurants took advantage of the attention it created and opened nearby, creating what today is a two-block strip of wall-to-wall restaurants. “We had trouble getting a cab those first two years,” says Dec, but the team hosted celebrity parties with partners like GQ magazine and the Black Eyed Peas “before they were big” to attract people. “And once people came out,” Dec says, “they realized the cab fare was the same as to the Gold Coast or somewhere else.”
Then Rockit focused its attention one block north to Illinois Street—opening The Underground at 56 West Illinois in 2006 (voted No. 1 nightclub in the country by Nightclub & Bar magazine in 2008), and Sunda at 110 West Illinois three years later. This ushered in the development of what is now another thriving restaurant strip on Illinois.
What they’ve done: Anchored River North as an entertainment district with the development of their trifecta of hot spots – Rockit Bar & Grill, Sunda New Asian, and The Underground nightclub – with a fourth River North venue opening this summer, Dragon Ranch Moonshine & BBQ at 441 N Clark St., which will offer American-Asian barbecue alongside custom-distilled spirits.
Rule Breakers: Ten years ago, “There wasn’t anyone doing Kobe burgers or truffle fries,” says Dec of the vision behind Rockit Bar & Grill. “And no one was playing rock unless you were a college or sports bar. We saw the void in the middle-the highest quality of food presentation with a comfortable, cool atmosphere.” Says Young: “There really wasn’t anything like it in the city at the time, so we had a solid three years before the copycats started coming out of the woodwork. Some have come and gone, but we have stuck to our own game.”
A Perfect 10: As they celebrate their 10th Anniversary this summer, the trio is looking toward the future. “We are just really excited to launch our second decade,” says Gomez. “There are companies that have had 20, even 40 years in the industry to build, so after seeing how much we have learned, we just feel ready to blaze new trails.” Just don’t expect an anniversary bash: “When it comes to our own personal celebration, we’ll probably get the most joy out of just thanking our teams, our families for letting us be workaholics, and one another for total commitment to helping this dream come true,” says Dec.”
Tags: arturo gomez, billy dec, black eyed peas, brad young, chicago, Gold Coast, gq magazine, Michigan Avenue Magazine, Nightclub & Bar Magazine, river north, rockit bar & grill, rockit ranch productions, sunda, the underground, Viagra Triangle
Every once in awhile you come across someone who inspires you to believe in yourself and never give up on your dreams. I met Julie through a women’s group ten years ago, and ran the fundraiser for her at the Old Town School of Folk Music. As I’ve traveled my own journey as a radio host and founder of Herstory Network, there were many times I wondered if things would ever work out. Watching my dear friend Julie’s journey from homelessness to the red carpet, I was continually reminded that the difference between those who make it and those who don’t, is often quite simple; believe in yourself, and never ever give up…oh, and reaching out to help others along the way makes the journey that much sweeter…here’s to all of us reaching our dreams…with grace, integrity and kindness.
Ten years ago, Chicagoan Julie Frost was broke and lost everything in a fire…last month she stood on stage at the Golden Globes with Madonna, accepting her award for co-writing the song “Masterpiece” from Madonna’s movie W.E., opening in theaters nationwide this Friday. Julie’s story is filled with determination and perseverance. Her soulful sound comes from the heart of a woman who knows what it means to follow your dreams in spite of horrendous obstacles. Julie moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, and in 2009 she was signed by EMI Records, where she wrote hit songs for artists such as Beyonce and The Black Eyed Peas. She also wrote the international hit Satellite, which hit #1 on the charts in Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Julie’s journey from Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music to the red carpet is one filled with determination, inspiration and grace.
On Monday February 6th Julie will be performing at Space in Evanston at 8PM. Go to evanstonspace.com to purchase tickets!
Tags: beyonce, black eyed peas, chicago, EMI Records, Evanston, Golden Globe winner, Herstory, Julie Frost, Madonna, Mary Long, Masterpiece, Old Town School of Folk Music, Space in Evanston, Suburb show, W.E.
If follow me on twitter you got to join me on the red carpet at the grammys last weekend! Every year I find it exciting, but this year with twitter I was surprised to see how many were loving the tweet pics I sent in real time- couldn’t believe the numbers of hits from you all! Thank you! Anyway, w/the responses from you all I got a ton of requests for video of the chaos so cut and pasted some together here! Pretty crazy huh… so random…
Shout out to buddies common, Giuliana rancic, black eyed peas,.. who were super fun to hang out with on the carpet… as well as nick cannon who you will see as well in the video who is actually coming out to chicago next week for his wife mariah carey’s performances at the chicago theatre and to dj my “twitter/blog one year birthday party” that you all requested! Amazing timing I know- His wife is performing down the street, he was my blog launch dj a year ago,.. it all just makes sense!
And omg I can’t believe its been one year, I learned a ton and have enjoyed blogging here and tweeting w/ all of you so much- thank you for the opportunity and I promise way more fun to come! So speaking of fun, my twitter/blog bday party is Saturday February 13th at the underground! Trust me, this will be one party you do no want to miss!!! (comment below for big requests for tables, vip list,… will do our best)
Oh, and one last huge shout out, the recording academy that is responsible for the grammys has a tremendously respected and all around amazing chicago chapter right here in our own backyard that anyone remotely interested in the music industry needs to check out and be a part of- I have enjoyed it for years and highly suggest it! For more info go to http://www2.grammy.com/Recording_Academy/Chapters/Chicago/
Woke up to the song “crazy” by gnarls barkley on the today show saying rolling stone
called it the song of decade? I’m not feeling that- but couldn’t come
up with one to sum it all up- so asked my friends on twitter and
facebook- and here is what the first 10 people to respond said: