UPTOWN — Chicago Magic Lounge is ready for its own place, solidifying its place in Chicago history, which local magicians say has been forgotten.
The group of more than 30 local professional magicians, which has been performing out of Uptown Underground at 4707 N. Broadway, broke ground at its new space at 5050 N. Clark St. around 10 a.m. Wednesday.
"Today, all the original magic bars are gone and so to is the memory that bar magic or restaurant magic was actually born here," said co-owner Joey Cranford. "As with anything else born in Chicago, we believe it should be remembered and celebrated."
The multi-million dollar renovations, designed by Morris Architects Planners, will transform a former laundromat into an art deco-style magic lounge with secret entrances, a performance bar, a 100-seat cabaret theater with a mezzanine overlooking the stages. It will also feature a close-up performance room called the "654 club" and a library, according to a press release and owners.
The project is "an opportunity to truly transform this entire corridor of Clark Street" between the Magic Lounge and the Black Ensemble Theater, 4450 N. Clark St., said Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th).
But for those investing in the renovations it's "a history project."
"I’ve said that since day one. This whole thing is about discovering the old days of the bars — the magic lounges — that were all over Chicago," said Cranford. It "aims at remembering and revitalizing Chicago’s contributions to the world of magic."
While "magic clubs" are now rare, there was a time the city was home to multiple magic clubs including New York Lounge, Mr. C's Magic Lounge and Houdini's Pub and Pizza Magic, according to the Chicago Magic Lounge website.
The tradition of having magicians perform at restaurants began at Schulien's at 1800 N. Halsted St. around 1915 and spread to multiple venues across the city, said Cranford.
"At the time, magic was only seen on large stages and no interaction was made with the audience. Schulien's brought magic so close to the spectator that magic was happening right before their eyes," he said, adding that magic wasn't just in restaurants and bars, but at one point the Loop even had five magic shops.
For now, shows will continue at the Broadway location until the new venue is completed, which is estimated to be in January 2018. But when the new venue opens the plan is to host magic shows seven days-a-week.
That provides an opportunity for the members to host their own solo shows, which was limited at Uptown Underground where they only performed a few days a week. The new venue will allow them to show different aspects of magic, said Chicago Magic Lounge member Luis Carreon.
"They get to see magic is not just kids' stuff, that’s what everyone thinks, but magic can be a very profound art form. It can be entertaining and it can be very expressive," he said.
Carreon was introduced to magic when he was about nine years old by his grandfather, who was a circus clown in Mexico. When Carreon moved to the United States, he used magic to help him learn English, said the Rogers Park resident.
He hopes the new venue can become Chicago's version of the Magic Castle, a nightclub for magicians and magic enthusiasts in Los Angeles.
"Everyone who gets into magic at a young age, really wants to push forward and one day perform there. Who knows maybe a lot of the kids nowadays interested in magic will have a future with us at the Chicago Magic Lounge," Carreon said. "I think it's going to be a big inspiration."
Renderings courtesy of Chicago Magic Lounge