The Party Won’t Be The Same: The State of Black Chicago Nightlife-Pt. 1

“Just Got Paid, its Friday Night”…After a long day of work, you come home, shower and change and head to your favorite neighborhood club for cocktails, good music, and conversation.  You have the perfect outfit and face mask to match and head to the club to meet your friends. It has been a long week, and you are ready to release some stress on the dance floor.  You arrive at the club, stand in line, take off your mask, have your photo taken and ID scanned, get your temperature checked, put your mask back on, and head into the club.  Grab your drink in a disposable cup and proceed to dance for your allotted 2 hours before the next group of club-goers arrives…sounds unreal right? However, it could be our reality, at least until a vaccine is found.

The question remains what happens to Bars, Clubs, and the nightlife we have grown accustomed to as the City of Chicago discusses the plans to reopen.  Clubs, Lounges, and bars are a place where we gather to socialize, dance, and enjoy a few cocktails.  What does that look like after the Shelter in Place ends, and the city begins to reopen? The city of Chicago has always been quite segregated, especially in the nightclub scene.  Segregated by race, age, class, and musical genre, black club and bar owners, are now faced with the question of how to return to business while practicing new guidelines to ensure public safety while still staying in business.  A few black Chicago’s nightclub owners, managers, and event curators gathered to discuss the state of Black Chicago Nightlife in a virtual discussion Friday night.

The panel included Shun Dyes, owner of the Renaissance Bronzeville, Tantrum nightclub, and the Caribbean Jerk Joint Restaurant, Mike Orie, Event Producer, and Founder of AfroTrack, Charles Martin, co-founder and managing partner of Persona, Makinde Adedapo, Asst. Talent buyer and production manager at the Promontory and Astin Hayes, Account Manager from Remy Cuantro USA.

Everyone agreed that the Shelter in Place order created an opportunity to take a step back and reflect.  The panel decided that this moment has forced them all to be more creative, thinking about new ways of marketing and creating events now and how to curate unique experiences when the shelter in place ends.

“…it’s frustrating, but we’ve looked at this as hitting the restart button…we are looking at ways to revamp, come back stronger, and exchanging different ideas.  We do not know how this will impact the world as a whole; it could change everything.  Our day to day conversations…how do we adjust and still succeed…”- Charles Martin

“I’ve been inspired…I didn’t realize how much of my day was tied to my work and other people.  When you are working seven days a week, doing 15 events a week, my day to day was wrapped in those small details.  How much of my day was for me? The creative moments I have in my head, I have more time to think and flush those ideas out. That’s how I’ve been coping”-Makinde Adedapo.

“It’s allowed me to be more creative and more flexible.  It is interesting for me to move in a different space.  Virtual and digital marketing has allowed me to continue partnerships during this time”. –Astin Hayes

With the Shelter in Place order expiring soon and as businesses ponder reopening, bar and club owners ponder what that means for their businesses. It is hard to determine what parameters bar and club owners will need to follow because the city or state has not defined them.  They also do not have a definitive date that they can reopen.  Establishments may be forced to have reduced occupancy. The panelists struggled with defining what clubs and lounges will look like during this “new normal.”

  • Staggered entry for nightclubs and lounges (multiple parties on the same night at different times)
  • Hand Sanitizer stations located throughout venues and outside venues
  • Touchless security checks
  • Masked bartending and wait staff
  • Temperature checks at the door
  • Patrons wear mandatory masks.
  • Disposable cups
  • VIP and Invite-Only Events
  • Bottles only events
  • Curated experiences spread across multiple venues.

While these scenarios haven’t been confirmed, they are being discussed as options.  The question becomes, how do you remain profitable when your standard occupancy is cut by over 50% or more?

…”You have to withstand until there is some vaccine or cure…50 people doesn’t pay the bills, but if you do it right and are strategic, it could get you through this difficult time”-Charles Martin

Popular spots such as Bureau Bar, The Delta, and Tantrum have already announced that they will not be reopening.  The struggles of black club owners and lounge owners are complex. In addition to struggling to survive during a shelter in place order, black-owned establishments have historically dealt with increased scrutiny of their businesses with extra citations, increased inspector visits, and issues with building management companies and residents in gentrified locations or predominately-white neighborhoods.  Despite doing well financially, Tantrum, a popular club located in the south loop, will be closing.  Lack of support from the neighborhood and a problematic and unsupportive business relationship with building management combined with facing reduced occupancy, they decided to close their doors.

“At some point, you get tired of trying to be in an area that doesn’t want you. Our other club,  Renaissance is in Bronzeville, and they love us there. That is my community, that’s where I live, and that’s where a huge majority of our patrons live. For now, Tantrum is gone but we’ll be back”- Shun Dyes

The panelists challenged one another to come together and share best practices, especially as it pertains to new social distancing guidelines.   The nightclub, party, bar, and lounge scene will definitely look and feel different when “outside opens back up,” however, Black Chicago Nightclub owners are committed to listening to their patrons and curating new and exciting experiences to keep their doors open.  It is a delicate balance that will require creativity, innovation, collaboration, and community support until a vaccine or cure is found.


Danielle Sanders is an entertainment writer who covers music and nightlife in Chicago. Find her on social media @blkwidowsweb.



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