WICKER PARK — A legendary Division Street bathhouse that closed three years ago and counted mobsters, politicians and "everyday Joes'' among its devotees plans to rise again as Red Square Cafe Lounge, featuring steam baths, a spa and a restaurant.
Inspired by Moscow's Red Square, which owner Alex Loyfman, 42, said "is the one place in Russia most people know," the two-story 18,000-square-foot building at 1914 W. Division St. has been transformed into a steam bath theme park, complete with microchip-embedded waterproof wristbands that enable guests to make purchases without having to fetch their wallets from a locker.
Loyfman has been wearing a pink microchip-embedded wristband for days, to test it against his skin and get prepped for the opening, which is still at least a month away by his estimate.
A $30 entry fee gains all-day admittance to communal single sex and co-ed 180-degree steam rooms, saunas, sunken Jacuzzis, cold baths and scrubs.
Diversions to keep patrons on the premises between dips include a 3,500 square-foot restaurant (steered by chef David Gebhardt from Japonais), a spa offering manicures and pedicures, traditional tanning beds and a stand-up spray tanning booth.
A bar adjacent to a cafe will serve five draft beers and specialty cocktails.
For those who want to stay longer than a day, a bed and breakfast is slated to open above Red Square a few months after the bathhouse and restaurants open, Loyfman said.
Highlights include a remodeled sauna room that gangster Al Capone reportedly hung out in, a restaurant area where patrons can dine in their robes and bathrooms wallpapered with vintage Chicago newspaper clippings.
"I'm excited to preserve heritage of the building. There's been so much support from neighbors and people are telling me that they're dying to come back," Loyfman said.
Currently he's in the process of hiring employees and estimates it will take a staff of 40 to run the venture, which can accommodate 100 patrons at a time.
According to Loyfman, target customers will be "Eastern Europeans, Spanish, the neighborhood crowd. We want to expose people to all walks [of life] and races, that’s the key. It’s a unique experience, there is nothing like this in Chicago," he said.
Red Square Cafe Lounge is expected to open 'sometime in January,' Loyfman said.
Hours will be 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.