The speak-easy burlesque venue at 4707 N. Broadway is now officially open and set to host its first show, Kiss Kiss Cabaret, Friday evening after its founders, Jenn A. Kincaid and Chris O. Biddle, obtained a liquor license Tuesday.
"Chicago has a lot of places for improv and sketch comedy, but there's a whole other genre of performers who don't fall into the comedy scene," Kincaid said.
She's referring to cabaret singers, burlesque dancers, vaudeville and variety show performers and even circus acts. Kincaid and Biddle, who also produce the burlesque show Kiss Kiss Cabaret, built the Uptown venue to provide those performers with a stage.
They hope to entice independent traveling performers with a venue that's more suitable than anything else in Chicago.
"The number of shows I've seen where beautiful acts are performed in front of a PBR sign ...," she said. "Ask them how many times they've changed in a coat closet. They won't have a number because it's every time."
The new 7,000-square-foot basement venue is housed within the terra cotta-coated Uptown Broadway Building, which is rumored to be a former Al Capone speak-easy. The floors, brick walls and columns are the same today as they were when the building opened.
The venue is separated into two lounges: the 150-seat Moonshine Main Stage and the 50-seat Starlight Lounge.
It has a full bar, where bartenders will serve classic, speak-easy-style cocktails using locally-made spirits from Ravenswood-based KOVAL Distillery and Evanston-based Few, among other distilleries. Expect bottles and cans of beer for right now; they're hoping to offer locally brewed beers on tap soon, Kincaid said. There's also a VIP lounge where up to six people can enjoy bottle service.
Beginning in March, patrons can buy snacks like chocolate almonds and pretzels. Kincaid said a dessert menu is in the works.
Fully-functioning arcade games from the 1920s and 1930s like the "Love Tester" and "Hi-Ball" line the hallway leading to the Starlight Lounge. On the opposite wall are massive, original posters of burlesque performers that once hung in the historic Rialto Square Theatre in suburban Joliet, Kincaid said.
For Kincaid and Biddle, the finished venue is a relief because they've been working on it for more than a year.
They had originally planned to officially open in time for Kiss Kiss Cabaret to take the stage for its annual New Year's Eve Hullabaloo. But construction took longer than expected, which meant they saw city inspectors "late in the game," Kincaid said.
When they tried to rush the licensing process, the city saw it as a "red flag," she said. The city then launched an investigation to find out "what kind of venue [they] were," which left them "jumping through a bunch of hoops" to get a license, she said.
Now that the licensing snafu is behind them, they can reflect on why they built the venue in the first place.
"Uptown needs it," Kincaid said.
"It's a historically beautiful part of town that has been vastly under appreciated and it deserves its chance in the spotlight."
Kiss Kiss Cabaret is scheduled to perform every Friday and Saturday night. Complementary acts will perform throughout the week, including a cabaret-style play called "Songs For a More Funnier World" and "Speak Uneasy," which Kincaid described as a "high-energy, dance and song show with a plot that's based on a murder mystery."
'It's sparkly and shiny, and all of the right things," she said.
Pianist Nick Sula will perform on Tuesdays, which she said will be a "relaxed affair" intended to put the spotlight on cabaret performers. For a full schedule, check the venue's website.
Tickets to see Kiss Kiss Cabaret cost up to $30. All other shows cost $10-$20. Tickets can be bought on the venue's website until 6 p.m. on the day of a show. After 6 p.m., tickets will be sold at the door unless the website explicitly says the show is sold out.
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