It’s Friday after the first night of Pitchfork fest. West Loop bar and music venue Bottom Lounge is suddenly swarmed with Pitchforkians creating a long wait at the upstairs Volcano Room Rum Bar. The bartenders run around trying to accommodate the demanding rush of people. Downstairs, the bar is slightly less chaotic. Comprised of two bars, a music room and an outdoor patio, the place is vast enough that even during this busy night, there’s still enough space to easily move around and not bump into anyone. Formerly a taxi-cab repair shop, the darkly lit loft space is barely illuminated by candles on tables and the bar. Tables and booths are scattered throughout the levels as loud rock music blasts through the PA system. Although downstairs is fairly chill, the real attraction of Bottom is the Volcano Room and deck: The tiki-themed bar boosts more than fifty brands of rum alone. Bottles of liquor are aligned on the shelves waiting to be poured as a life-sized totem pole glares at the bargoers. Outside, the spacious wooden deck, one of the biggest in town, unravels before the city. The Sears Tower gleams in the distance as people imbibe and, gasp, smoke through the muggy night. Besides the rum, a bevy of beers are on tap from Beamish and Radeberger (served in a giant glass) to the old standby, PBR. A mixed clientele down reasonably priced beers and munch on Bottom’s tasty food such as wraps, chicken tenders, burgers and salads served late into the night.
After closing its original Lakeview location in 2005 to accommodate the Brown Line El reconstruction, the old Bottom Lounge was demolished and the owners settled on this new location. Plagued by several delays—mainly due to construction and waiting on city approvals—the rejuvenated Bottom officially reopened its doors in June. The new space is in the same ilk as the old one: two floors combined with a music venue. Original Bottom owners Brian Elmiger and Dan Miskowicz added third partner Mike Miller of Delilah’s to help with liquor promotions like the rum festival held last month. “It’s so early, so it’s a little hard to gauge what’s going to happen,” says Miskowicz. “People are still coming in for the first time.” Miskowicz says so far the place has garnered a positive reaction but is still trying to establish an identity. Whereas the former Bottom was more of a music draw, the new place is more of a late-night drinking and dining hangout. “A lot of people tell us that it reminds them of the old Bottom Lounge,” states Miskowicz. “It’s a rock club, but since it’s at night, everyone hangs out here. At the old Bottom Lounge, we never got people just hanging out there.” (Garin Pirnia)
Bottom Lounge, 1375 West Lake, (312)929-2022