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Rock 'N Roll Days Inn — Host To Cobain, Wilco — Rebrands As Hotel Versey

By Ariel Cheung | May 18, 2017 6:03am
 Hotel Versey opened Wednesday at Clark and Diversey.
Hotel Versey Opens In Lakeview
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LAKEVIEW — Hotel Zachary may be fancier, and the Wheelhouse Hotel perhaps cheaper, but neither can hold a candle to the rich music history of the new Hotel Versey.

Once host to such rock legends as Kurt Cobain, Radiohead and Wilco, the former Days Inn at 644 W. Diversey Parkway has been rebranded and remodeled over the last four months into a boutique hotel catering to tourists who want to explore North Side neighborhoods, catch a Chicago Cubs game, or attend a show or Wrigley Field concert.

Hotel Versey isn't alone. A number of hotels springing up in the neighborhood reflects a growing demand within Lakeview's tourism industry, spurred in part by redevelopment near Wrigley Field, a boom in stadium concerts and the continued success of major events like the Chicago Pride Parade.

"This neighborhood is underserviced as far as hotels go," said 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney. "I think it's really important [to meet that] overall demand."

Hotel Versey, which celebrated its new look with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday — capitalizes on the Cubs crowd and looks to link itself to the World Series championship team. The iconic red marquee is set against the Chicago skyline in guest room murals, and large shelves in the hotel's lobby proudly displays baseball bats, catcher's gear and a Cubs logo made from bottle caps.

Cubs memorabilia and other Chicago-themed trinkets greet guests at the newly opened Hotel Versey, 644 W. Diversey Parkway. [Mark Ballogg Photography]

The hotel also harkens to its history as a hub for jazz musicians as the Diversey Arms Hotel in the 1920s and, later, as a crash pad for rock stars, earning it the honorary title of the "Rock 'N' Roll Days Inn."

The folks at Hotel Versey are eager to showcase the 92-year-old building's history, offering up a list of musicians who have stayed in its rooms (rumor has it Cobain did a lot more than just stay there back in 1991).

Jazz legends Bix Beiderbecke and Red Nichols lived there in 1925 and performed at the hotel's Rendezvous Cafe on the first floor.

The Diversey Arms Hotel hosted jazz musicians Bix Beiderbecke and Red Nichols after it opened in the 1920s. [Illinois Digital Archives]

The mob-owned cafe stirred up some trouble for comedian Joe E. Lewis in 1927. Lewis turned down a contract at Al Capone's Green Mill Cocktail Lounge in Uptown in favor of Rendezvous. Capone's henchman, Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn, had Lewis' throat slit in retaliation.

The story is recounted in the 1957 movie "The Joker Is Wild," starring Frank Sinatra as Lewis.

The hotel's new name is a play on its origins as the Diversey Arms Hotel, as well as a nod to its V-shaped structure at the northwest corner of Clark, Broadway and Diversey.

Hotel Versey touts itself as "a hub for families, the sports-oriented, the business-minded, multicultural guests from around the world and the LGBTQ community" and has 137 rooms with bold, modern interiors that rent for as low as $199 per night.

Decor at the Hotel Versey depicts views outside the newly opened Lakeview hotel. [Provided/Mark Ballogg Photography]

.Hotel Versey invites guests to "stay like a local" [Provided/Mark Ballogg Photography]

Coming later this year will be a new restaurant and retail on the hotel's ground floor, which already houses Stan's Donuts, Wow Bao and Jimmy John's.

Oxford Hotels & Resorts, a Chicago-based hotel management company, bought the hotel last June. It began the estimated $410,000 renovations in February while keeping the Days Inn open during construction.

Hotel Versey is the 12th Oxford hotel in the Chicago area, but the company's first neighborhood hotel. Its portfolio also includes The Langham Chicago, LondonHouse Chicago and The Godfrey Hotel and hotels in New York, Los Angeles and Tampa.

Although Hotel Versey's remodel doesn't add more stock to the hotel market in Lakeview, it will have to compete with at least 230 additional hotel rooms coming to the neighborhood in the next two years.

Hotel Zachary will open in early next year with 175 rooms, and  the Wheelhouse Hotel will add 21 rooms later this year and another 32 by next spring.

RELATED: Can Chicago's Old-School Bed-And-Breakfasts Survive Airbnb?

Nearby, Best Western Plus Hawthorne Terrace, Old Chicago Inn, the Inn at Wrigleyville and several others also vie for Lakeview visitors. Meanwhile, traditional bed-and-breakfast inns, hostels and a flourishing Airbnb market offer quaint or inexpensive alternatives for travelers.