Kenny Johnson Opens The Bureau Bar and Restaurant in the Heart of University Village

Kenny Johnson

Kenny Johnson, owner of The Bureau Bar (South Loop), The Velvet Lounge and his latest addition, The Bureau Bar and Restaurant, held his grand opening this month at 724 W Maxwell St. The evening consisted of giving the public an opportunity to explore the comfortable social atmosphere, sample the food on the menu and try the signature cocktails.
This new development of the Bureau brand is advanced with a wide-range of menu options, drinks, and sections for different occasions. “We were heavy on the food that evening because we wanted people to taste the food. We are pushing the restaurant, bar and nightclub aspect of the place, not just one secluded area,” Johnson told the Defender. “We are all 3 of those in one place. We want people to come and get a drink, watch a game, have a meal but also stay for the party. We’re trying to redefine the dinner party concept because there’s no other place like this where you can do all three at one time.”
At this site, there is a giant stage where there will be live entertainment, an extended bar area, the main dining area and a lounge area with couches and sofas where people can eat and have a drink as well. A DJ booth is between the lounge area and the main dining room.
Johnson stated, “We open at 5 p.m. but during the day we can do breakfast, luncheons, private and special events as well, so space can be reserved before 5 p.m. for special events.  We’ve got three main areas, the bar, the main dining area and the stage for entertainment, so there could be multiple things going on at one time, and it won’t interrupt each other. We are also about to start brunch the first week of February on Friday and Saturdays.”

The Wings served at the new restaurant
Collard dip

The Bureau Bar and Restaurant is open to the public every Tuesday through Sunday from 5:00 pm to 2:00 am (Saturday nights 5:00 pm until 3:00 am). The new site takes the chic, speakeasy vibe of its first location and adds a creative menu that provides “Soul Food with a twist.”
There will also be a Happy Hour on Tuesday through Saturday, Afro Fusion Thursday and many more pleasures throughout the week.
Johnson acquired this thought for The Bureau Bar and Restaurant by implementing his plan to grow the brand in a new way. “People liked it, (The Bureau Bar) and liked the feel of it the coziness of it, the couches, the leather on the bar, bookcases, so we bought some of those similar elements over to the new location. Now we can have multiple events going on; we have a kitchen to serve food, and we have live entertainment, so this is just Bureau Bar on steroids. People like the brand, so we wanted to expand it more.”
Johnson said he was familiar with the area and decided to expand. “I use to have a little business over there called The Little Gym so I knew of the spaces that were over there and the people who run the facilities. They knew what I did over in South Loop with the other lounge, and the place had been vacant for a while. We kept looking at it and trying to figure out what else we were going to do with the Bureau Bar Brand, and it was a good opportunity to take.”
After Johnson’s thorough pitch, with no hesitation, the facility owners were on board and were very happy to include an African-American business.
“They were honestly very African American friendly,” Johnson said. “You know many places in the city don’t want us (African-Americans) there or are not comfortable with us there, but from the get-go it was clear that I wasn’t going to camouflage (the target audience)… they knew from the get-go this is who the target market is, and it was respected.”
Kenny Johnson has been experimenting in marketing, promotions, and events since he was 19 and a student at the University of Virginia. He is now 48 years old and advises anyone who is going into business and entrepreneurship to stick to your guns.
“All the things I was doing then has been leading me up to what I’m doing now. It does not come overnight; you spend much money, you lose much money, make much money, but it’s a lot of work and people don’t realize that you have to stick to it and stay focused on what you’re trying to do because then you can get there. Have a good team of people around you who can help you build a successful business. ”
For more information, events and reservations for The Bureau Bar + Restaurant, go to

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