Ten years ago, I attended my first Madhatter’s Ball, and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced! Lights, music, fanfare, and hats galore! Not only is this annual event an incredible spectacle, but the people I have met over the years through Lookingglass have become lifelong friends. The theatre brings extraordinary plays to the people of Chicago, and consistently engages our diverse community through talk-backs, volunteering, and educational outreach. I hope you will join me in supporting this wonderful organization of remarkably talented and caring people who create beautiful art, educate Chicago youth, and throw awesome parties!
So what’s in store for this year?
Whisper the secret password, slink through the velvet curtain, and join hundreds of your closest conspirators at the Madhatter’s Speakeasy. The Lookingglass Theatre Junior Board welcomes you to this clandestine hideaway for a sophisticated evening of debauchery on June 1st at Venue One in the West Loop. Don your fedora, cloche, bowler, trilby or boater, and kick of summer at the most unique fundraiser of the year.
Our hosts for the evening will be Lookingglass Ensemble Member Anthony Fleming III and Wendy Mateo of Big Lake Big City, and we will rock the night away to the beats and musical talent of Dante The Don, Dr. Bombay, DJ Q, Justin Jacobson, and DJ RedLine. The Madhatter’s Speakeasy will seduce you with delectable bites from your favorite restaurants, including Sunda, Rockit Bar & Grill, Hubbard Inn, and Market to name only a few. Despite the Prohibition era theme, Chopin Vodka will be flowing in addition to Primal Roots Wine, beer from New Holland Brewery, and a host of other delicious drinks.
The criminal cocktails, live entertainment, tasty treats, and salacious silent auction are just part of the fun for the evening. The true reason for our surreptitious gathering is to support Lookingglass Theatre’s education and community programs. Annually, the Madhatter’s Ball serves as the Lookingglass Junior Board’s primary fundraiser to help advance the theatre’s commitment to creating new theatrical work and increasing its work with Chicago-area students and families. Lookingglass’ acclaimed theater education programs encourage self-esteem and creativity in thousands of students every year. And, lucky you, getting to be a part of this fantastic cause! Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to join us for one of the hottest parties of the summer that is not only a ridiculously good time, but most importantly supports extraordinary work. It’s all for the kids!
The Madhatter’s Ball: Saturday, June 1, 2013 ~ Venue One, 1040 W. Randolph Ave. ~ 7:30 pm: VIP Reception ~ 8:30 pm - 12:00 am ~ 12:00 am ~ After-Party at Lumen (839 W. Fulton) ~ Cocktail attire ~ Speakeasy-style costumes are optional, but hats are recommended ~ All attendees must be 21 years of age or older ~ To learn more about the Junior Board, Madhatter’s Ball, and to purchase tickets, visit here.
I look forward to seeing you at the Madhatter’s Speakeasy!
Lookingglass Theatre Junior Board President
2013 Madhatter’s Ball Co-Chair
Tags: Anthony Fleming III, Art, chicago theatre, Chopin Vodka, dante the don, DJ Q, DJ RedLine, dr. bombay, educate Chicago youth, Hubbard Inn, Justin Jacobson, lookingglass, Lookingglass Ensemble Member, madhatter's ball, Madhatter’s Ball Chicago, Madhatter’s Speakeasy, market, New Holland Brewery, Primal Roots Wine, rockit bar & grill, sunda, The Lookingglass Theatre Junior Board, theatre, Venue One, Wendy Mateo, West Loop
For those not familiar, Uber is a mobile app that lets you request a Private Driver or TAXI at the touch of a button.
In almost 15 months in Chicago, Uber has driven thousands of Chicagoans to their favorite restaurants, kept them stylish en route to killer events, or gotten them home safely after a late night in the office. Uber has even helped with a few ‘Rides of Glory’ – a morning ride that comes only a few hours after a late night ride to the same location. It should come as no surprise that River North and Lincoln Park had the highest concentration of those types of rides .
During our time in Chicago, we’ve felt extremely welcomed by Chicago’s amazing bar and restaurant scene – especially the Rockit Ranch family. It’s been great to partner up on numerous events, including our Restaurant Week special in February, where we provided free rides to Sunda during lunch. We’re excited to bring Chicago even more exciting promotions over the next few months including the upcoming ‘Uber Sleigh’. Throughout December we’ll be collecting toys in Ubers, and eventually donating them to charity.
Unfortunately, recently proposed Chicago regulations would prohibit Uber’s Black car service from operating in Chicago. In addition to preventing Uber from bringing the style and safety to your transportation, these regulations would limit the earning potential of over 1,000 drivers who partner with Uber. By restricting the use of technology in the transportation industry, these regulations also raise concerns for anyone who believes that innovation is the key to Chicago’s future growth and status as a truly world-class city.
Even with that minor roadblock, we’re working hard to ensure that Uber will be here for a long time. Plus, the support from Chicagoans has been amazing! If you haven’t taken a ride, sign up here and receive $10 off your first ride!
For updates on Uber including information on our regulatory issues and the upcoming toy drive, make sure to follow us on Twitter.
UPDATE 10/19/12- THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN! The most voted for concept for our next venue was a play on a “Mexican Dive Bar” at 39% of the votes- so as of right now, we will proceed now in that direction!!!!! Please help us spread the word to hire the best staff for this project, and for positions available at our other Restaurants/Bars/Nightclubs…at our Open Call for Jobs this Monday 10/22/12 from 2p-530p at Rockit Bar & Grill (22 W. Hubbard). See: http://bit.ly/SAOFyP & email HR@RockitRanch.com for info.
Thank you all so much for your valuable input! More to come!***
Surprise! We found a unique opportunity and bought Martini Ranch! Not only is it one of the few 4am licenses left in the city, and walking distance from our other River North properties Sunda, Dragon Ranch, Underground & Rockit, but tons of Chicagoans from all over (like my partners Brad Young, Arturo Gomez & I) have meaningful history enjoying this local gem w/friends for the last 20+ years! Haha- I even was a bouncer there when I was 21!
So… now what? What should we do with it? We figured you all have been so critical to our success with your insightful & caring suggestions on what we can do to serve you better, that we thought we’d let you have a say too! We’d probably open it around the new year, just in time to send our late night crowd & employees there from Underground, while we give UG a fresh new look during the slower winter months of 2013. Which means we need to know what route to take now!
We will tally all votes and announce our decision in early October! Thanks all and spread the word to all your friends via Twitter, Facebook, email (please use share buttons here too).. we want to hear what they think too!
AND since we are growing- WE ARE HIRING! Positions include experienced Servers, Bartenders, Managers, Hosts, Security, Cooks, Sous Chefs, Mixologists… At Rockit, Sunda, Underground, Dragon Ranch Moonshine & BBQ and whatever this new concept will be! Email HR@RockitRanch.com if interested!
Tags: 4am, arturo gomez, Bar, Best, billy dec, brad young, chicago, Dive Bar, Dragon Ranch, facebook, late night, Martini Ranch, New concept, restaurant, river north, rockit, rockit ranch productions, sunda, the underground, twitter, Voting
Michael Shannon of HBO’s BOARDWALK EMPIRE, and villain General Zod in the upcoming blockbuster, MAN OF STEEL, is currently receiving rave reviews for his performance in the Broadway production of GRACE.
Soon he will come home to Chicago for one exciting night of celebration with the theatre company he co-founded 20 years ago to Host with Billy Dec the 20th Anniversary of A Red Orchid Theatre on Mon, Nov 12th. This fantastic benefit evening will start with an exclusive VIP Dinner at Sunda New Asian, and continue at The Underground with a cocktail party and auction, featuring an EXTRA WALK-ON ROLE* in HBO’s BOARDWALK EMPIRE, an amazing Napa experience, phenomenal Bears tickets, a thrilling night in Vegas, and much more!
Tickets are going fast and can be reserved online at www.aredorchidtheatre.org or by calling (312)943-8722. Join Billy Dec, Michael Shannon and A Red Orchid Theatre’s Ensemble to celebrate in style the 20th anniversary of this acclaimed, cutting edge theatre company! *(non-speaking, non-credited). – Jen Sultz
If you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw my night out last night w/Olympian buds Ryan Lochte & Conor Dwyer. You obviously know how freakishly talented they are and how great they represented and competed for our country, but just wanted to say on a personal level, they are two solid great guys, pleasure to hang out with for sure.
If missed it, I took them to join me at Sunda, and we all tweeted out this pic (click here) of us and this amazing sushi roll Chef made to look like a gold medal with real gold shavings sprinkled over the top. Had to share it with you! They were blown away, totally fun. Then we all went for Moonshine Bushwackers at my new place Dragon Ranch Moonshine & BBQ for the launch of our Tuesday Industry Night “Moonshine Social Club!“ After all that craze, we headed to a Hennessy Party where Ryan & I were just goofing off and made this little random off-the-cuff 2min Q & A video I think you’ll like…Enjoy!
Tags: "Jeah", basketball, billy dec, chicago, Dragon Ranch Moonshine & BBQ, football, Gold Medal, Gold Sushi, Hennesy, interview, lil wayne, London, Magic, miami, Minnesota Vikings, Moonshine Social Club, Music, olympics, Orlando, Randy Moss, Ryan Lochte, Speedo, sunda, twitter
As the Wine Director and Co-Owner of BIN 36, I have the opportunity to support various charities and organizations through donations and special events. This August, I decided to take our philanthropic efforts a step further by creating the “Real Men Drink Pink” campaign, benefiting Bright Pink, the only national breast cancer organization focusing on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women while providing support for high risk individuals. Their efforts and work resonate with me on a personal level.
My family has been disproportionately affected by breast cancer. I lost my mother, Barbara Duncan, in 1985 at the age of 57, and her sister a couple of years later. Since then, three of my mother’s sisters have been diagnosed and treated for this indiscriminately vicious disease. These women shared many things other than breast cancer, including beauty, strength, compassion, dignity, grace, great senses of humor, intelligence, and a passion for life.
We all know someone in our lives that has been touched by the devastating effects of breast cancer. I am not a doctor, so I have found myself feeling helpless and constantly wondering how I could fight back. Well, I have figured out a way. I’ve teamed with some of Chicago’s leading men including: Chef Rick Bayless, WLS Radio Host Roe Conn, CEO and Founder of Rockit Ranch Productions Billy Dec, ABC 7’s “Hungry Hound” Steve Dolinskyr, Chicago Bears Kicker Robbie Gould, Time Out Chicago Group Publisher Randy Hano, Chef Paul Kahan, One Off Hospitality Partner/Owner Donnie Madia, Check Please! Owner David Manilow, Naha Owner Michael Nahabedian, and Media Personality Richard Roeper.
It’s a way to say to all women that we care, we support you and that I will do what I can to make others aware that breast cancer has not been cured. Most importantly, we’re in the fight with you and this is a community-wide issue.
Beginning August 10th through August 17th top Chicago restaurants will be pouring outstanding rose wines at $10 a glass in support of breast cancer awareness and Bright Pink. The campaign is “REAL MEN DRINK PINK.” 100% of the proceeds will go to Bright Pink for raising breast cancer awareness.
Bring your friends, family, office, and even strangers to visit these stellar restaurants and show your support. Buy a glass, a bottle, or just donate generously at any of the participating restaurants. You can do this. While supporting this meaningful initiative, you will have the pleasure of sampling great food and wine from some of Chicago’s best! Have fun and make a difference all at once.
“Real Men Drink Pink” participating restaurants include BIN 36, Boka, Frontera, Naha, NoMI Kitchen, Publican, Rockit, Sunda, Telegraph, Topolobampo, and Webster’s Wine Bar. To learn more about Real Men Drink Pink, visit bin36.com or call 312.755.WINE.
Tags: and Media Personality Richard Roeper, billy dec, BIN 36, Boka, bright pink, CEO and Founder of Rockit Ranch Productions Billy Dec, Check Please! Owner David Manilow, Chef Paul Kahan, Chef Rick Bayless, Chicago Bears Kicker Robbie Gould, Frontera, Naha, Naha Owner Michael Nahabedian, NoMI Kitchen, One Off Hospitality Partner/Owner Donnie Madia, Publican, real men drink pink, rockit, sunda, Telegraph, Time Out Chicago Group Publisher Randy Hano, Topolobampo, Webster’s Wine Bar, wine director, WLS Radio Host Roe Conn
Everyone grab a Chicago Social! There’s a 3 page, 9 photo huge spread on Rockit Ranch Productions’ 10 Year Anniversary – with really fun quotes and comment by the partners and friends! Scroll through the pictures for some of the great shots featuring the Stanley Cup, Barbara Streisand, David Beckham and more! – KatieRose Cronin
“The stretch of River North that fans out from Hubbard Street and runs west from the Mag Mile to the river is a far more happening place than it was in 2002. Back then, sparsely used parking lots and adult video stores abounded. True, there were some standout restaurants—Brasserie Jo and Rick Bayless’ mini-empire on Clark Street—but a lot of vacant buildings, too.
It could be argued that what set the neighborhood on its breakneck path toward being the dining and nightlife juggernaut it is today was the 2004 opening of Rockit Bar & Grill, the jacket-free place for a power-lunch/celebrity hangout/rock bar/Sunday brunch standby that was the brainchild of Rockit Ranch Productions. This month, the company celebrates its 10th anniversary as it prepares to launch its fifth establishment, a barbecue restaurant with Asian influences called Dragon Ranch that’s slated to open at 441 N. Clark St. later this summer.
Rockit Ranch Productions now employs more than 500 people, but in 2002, when the company was brought in as partners by Le Colonial’s Joe King to make a hit out of the velvety Gold Coast nightclub Le Passage, there was only the now-familiar trio: Billy Dec, the baseball cap-wearing celeb wrangler and ubiquitous face of the operation; Brad Young, the sharp-eyed money guy who quit his dad’s investment banking firm to found Rockit; and Arturo Gomez, the youngest of the three and a smooth, suited-up nightlife natural who veered into the business on his way to dental school and never looked back.
With little more than a printer and a bank account to make things legit, the Rockit team transformed (the now closed) Le Passage from a nonstarter of a spot into the place to be by nixing the froufrou French house music in favor of mainstream music and hip-hop, switching out the staff, changing marketing tactics and finding a sweet spot between glam factor and hometown hospitality. “Not all of the owners were from around here, and they didn’t know what Chicago wanted,” says Young. “We did.” King agrees: “They were the missing link we needed, and our sales improved significantly.” Lines became a given outside Le Passage’s red-carpeted alleyway, and the Rockit guys began scouting a location for their own venture.
Young took Dec to see an old lamp factory on Hubbard Street. The place was gutted, the windows were kicked out, and there were male prostitutes lingering on the sidewalk. “When you’re used to being anchored in the Gold Coast’s plushest little room, that space seemed like a huge risk,” says Dec. “We’d take our investors to see it, and they’d keep going outside to check on their cars.”
It wasn’t like the Rockit guys didn’t know what they were doing, though. Dec was a nightlife veteran, having started as a bouncer while in law school at Kent. He later opened several nightspots, including the 17,000-square-foot Circus on Weed Street, a project Young was involved with (Gomez also came into the picture about that time, after working as a bartender in Lincoln Park and then approaching Dec for a job). They had all witnessed the inner workings of the industry, and together they realized that the clientele who’d shocked them by lining up 4,000 deep on Circus’ opening night was getting older. They were going to need a more sophisticated place to play.
Rockit Bar & Grill, with its industrial-chic design by a then almost-famous Nate Berkus, was conceived as a hybrid, “a one-stop shop,” Gomez says. Patrons could have dinner downstairs (better-than-basic comfort food like burgers with truffle fries and giant salads became Rockit’s signature), and then simply walk upstairs to play pool, drink and party in the bar. (Rockit’s Wrigleyville outpost recently evolved into “Rockit Burger Bar” to reflect the neighborhood’s ordering patterns.)
When it became clear that the concept was working, the trio decided to keep the train moving by quickly opening up spot No. 2, The Underground, a few blocks away. Since staying out until Rockit’s weekend closing times of two or three in the morning wasn’t late enough for some revelers, it made sense to snap up a nearby space with a rare 4am license that happened to be for sale at the time. Bunker-themed The Underground—inspired by a club Young had visited in Jerusalem—was an immediate hit, bolstered in part by Dec’s knack for bringing seemingly every celebrity who happened to be in Chicago through the club’s inconspicuous metal doors. A recent example: the night Jamie Foxx grabbed the mic at The Underground and belted out a tune while the cast of Glee danced around him.
Next came Sunda, the Illinois Street restaurant that marked Rockit’s leap into fine-ish dining. The exotic-looking room and the sushi-leaning menu both aim high, but with the sound system turned up and a glossy crowd that likes to hit the bar for pre-dinner cocktails, the vibe is more party than proper—unless you’re Barbra Streisand and you require a bit of privacy, in which case you’ll enjoy a quiet meal upstairs, as the singer/actress and her husband James Brolin did last summer….
To enjoy the entire article, click here!
Tags: arturo gomez, Barbara Streisand, billy dec, brad young, chicago, circus, David Beckham, Doug Wexler, Dragon Ranch, glee, Gold Coast, James Brolin, jamie foxx, Jess De Guzman, Joe King, le passage, Nate Berkus, river north, rockit bar & grill, Rockit Burger Bar, rockit ranch productions, sunda, the underground, wrigleyville
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
Friday, June 1st promises to be a one-of-a-kind night at Lincoln Park Zoo. The zoo’s auxiliary board is hosting their signature fundraiser, Zoo-ologie, in the heart of the Zoo. All the proceeds raised during this unique event will go towards helping care for the animals, keep up exhibits, as well as continue education initiatives all while keeping the zoo free to the public. Lincoln Park Zoo is currently one of only three free zoos in the entire country – and we want it to stay that way! If you live anywhere near Chicago, chances are you’ve enjoyed the beautiful grounds of the LP Zoo at some point in your life. As a DePaul Alum, I walked through the zoo countless times on my way to and from the beach just because I could; not much is free these days, so you have to take advantage and enjoy those few things that are.
The Auxiliary Board for the Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the most popular fundraising groups in Chicago and certainly knows how to host a fun party! The lineup for the evening promises to be quite memorable. The VIP reception kicks off at 7pm, followed by cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at 8pm. Some of the featured food stations will include: Sunda, Rockit Bar & Grill, Rockit Burger Bar, Tavern on Rush and “Top Chef” alum Sarah Grueneberg’s Café Spiaggia. AKIRA is the proud fashion sponsor for Zoo-ologie to make things event better!! A silent auction, raffle and dancing under the stars kicks off at 9pm and goes until midnight. Rock Candy will be on hand as the live entertainment from 9pm until midnight as well. As if that wasn’t enough, the (after) party continues at Underground from midnight until 5am.
Tickets to the event start at $110 for general admission and VIP tickets are available for $150. Be sure to get your tickets while they’re available for this awesome event that supports an even better cause! See you under the stars at Lincoln Park Zoo on June 1st!
Tags: akira, Alum, Café Spiaggia, chicago, dancing, DePaul, free, fundraiser, Lincoln Park Zoo, LP, party, proceeds, raffle, reception, Rock Candy, rockit bar & grill, Rockit Burger Bar, Sarah Grueneberg, silent auction, sunda, Tavern on Rush, top chef, underground, vip, Zoo-ologie
I can’t believe this is the 20th anniversary of Green Tie Ball! I remember when I was graduating college and wanted to get involved in one charity that I knew could allow me to make a difference. I had always heard the best party of the year was called Green Tie Ball, so I did my research and found it was so much more than that I had to get involved.
The Green Tie Ball benefits Chicago Gateway Green, whose mission is dedicated to greening and beautifying Chicago’s expressways, gateways and neighborhoods. The non-profit organization was founded in 1986 and since then, have helped to improve both the local environment and the quality of life for millions of Chicago residents and visitors. They are able to improve our communities through three key programs: the Expressway Partnership, transforming city roadways into landscaped parkways; the International Sculpture Program, beautifying gateways through the installation of public, international art on expressways; and the Tree Partnership Program, a large-scale tree planting initiative that transforms vacant land into tree-filled green spaces.
12 years ago I started by stuffing gift bags and helping with whatever I could, I went on to book entertainment, then chaired the event and now was just voted on to the Executive Board of Directors! This Saturday marks the 20th anniversary and it’s back where it originated at A. Finkl & Sons and a “Return to Emerald City” theme. Saturday will be Co-Chaired by Tim Smithe – Walter E. Smithe Furniture & Design and Stephanie Castagnier – NBC’s The Apprentice 2010, plus we have over 60 of Chicago’s top restaurants including Sunda & Rockit Bar & Grill. Expect fabulous drinks and the best entertainment by Too White Crew, Dr. Bombay and tunes by DJ’s Rock City, Yours Truly and DJ Galvan – with the official after-party at The Underground. Tickets and more info – www.gatewaygreen.org.
Tags: after party, annual gala, charitable events, chicago, chicago expressway, chicago gateway green, chicago non-profit, chicago weekend events, dj galvan, dj rock city, dj yours truly, dr. bombay, gateway green, green tie ball, jon landan, NBC, rockit bar and grill, stephanie castagnier, sunda, the apprentice, the underground, tim smithe, too white crew, walter e. smithe