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
For over 3 years now we at Rockit Ranch have shared our platform with up-and-coming talent of all kinds in Chicago, showcasing them right here on aChicagoThing.com, to give our city’s potential future entertainers a celebratory & supportive boost toward a quicker & more successful entry into the Art, Culture & Entertainment industry in our city & beyond!
After many requests from both performers & our viewers, we are now going to give select entries of found talent more than just an internet introduction to our friends, fans & followers, but actually give them the light, mic & a LIVE shot at entertaining an extremely talented crowd we will bring together of the most influential, energetic, creative, artistic & fun movers and shakers in Chicago! If you know ANYONE that you think has great talent (and/or if you just want to join me at the party), connect with me ASAP on http://www.facebook.com/BillyDec or http://www.twitter.com/BillyDec!
It all goes down Friday, July 20th at 11p at The Underground (56 W. Illinois). The acts selected (21 & over only) will appear random & raw through out the party – and those who blow away the crowd will reach a large volume of exposure from influentials in the room & beyond (through social media & more)!Thanks for joining us in contributing support for our future talent! And spread the word!
Tags: Art, Auditions, billy dec, chicago, Circus Acts, culture, Dancers, entertainment, events, July 20, rockit ranch, showcase, Singers, Stunts, summer, Talent Show, the underground, up and coming talent
It’s that time of year again for Jeremy Piven & Billy Dec to join forces and host the best party of the year all to benefit the Piven Theatre Workshop & their new Theatre they are building!! Every year these two guys do whatever they can to help raise funds for children’s art & theater scholarships in Chicago and without exception it’s always a good time, it always brings out a fun, philanthropic crowd, celebrities, pro-athletes, media, influencers, movers & shakers… it’s the perfect opportunity to party it up for an excellent cause.
Check out this video from Jeremy & Billy on the set of Entourage inviting all to last year’s party, footage from previous year’s festivities & more! This year, the big afterparty you need to be at is at The Underground, Saturday June 23rd at 10pm (special reception 10p-11p), with just a $20 minimum donation at the door (feel free to give more!). The first event if anyone is interested btw is in Evanston at Noyes Cultural Art Center! For more information on that event, click here!
- Thanks and take care, KatieRose Cronin
UPDATE: This just released…great Q & A with Jeremy out today in Michigan Avenue Magazine about Saturday night: http://bit.ly/LCwFqz
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
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
Tags: billy dec, bruno mars, Danny Masterson, David Arquette, DJ Cobra, DJ Mom Jeans, john legend, Kellan Lutz, Lindsay Lohan, lollapalooza, Mia Moretti, perry farrell, rockit, sunda, the underground, Twilight, Tyrese
And shoutout to another team member, our underground dj matt roan who hit me on twitter to turn me on to his killer band.. 1900s! I’m all about giving shoutouts and spotlights to great local talent.. So please everyone, send me suggestions!
As for 1900s, this talented chicago-based band has been around since 2006, and has been described by one reviewer as a cross between fleetwood mac and fellow chicagoan liz phair. From chitown, to nyc, to london & more.. they’ve been representing chicago all over the world and we wish them the best!
And if you like live music and want to support up and coming musicians – you should join us Saturday, Feb 19th at 7pm for the Live Music Blues Beatuillion Social Media Party. All info can be found here!
aChicagoThing.com 2 Year Anniversary pictures are in! Take a look to see all the fun- & thank you off for the support and help to raise money for the Greater Chicago Food Depository!