Tom Powers hopes to recharge the wine bar concept with The Lunatic, The Lover & The Poet, set to open by the end of the year in Chicago’s restaurant-heavy West Loop neighborhood. Powers, the owner and sommelier of the expansive 7,000-square-foot warehouse-turned-three-level space, plans to offer cocktails, craft beer and more creative small plates as a way to bridge the gap between the wine-and-cheese-only bars popular in the ’90s and the way consumers like to eat, drink and socialize today.
“The space will have two distinct feels,” says Powers, who used Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the inspiration behind the whimsical, sophisticated, fairy tale–like design. Downstairs will be more simple and straightforward with exposed brick walls, lighter-washed wood and a white-topped, 20-seat bar highlighting the different spirits and wines. “There will be more flourish in the 46-seat dining room using custom-made light fixtures and lots of wood and a feeling like you’re in the forest setting of Act 5 where the name comes from.”
A large, temperature-controlled wine storage system will take up the center of the dining room. Glass doors will allow guests to peruse the bottles, while overhead, a custom-made 25-foot crystal chandelier designed by James Geier graces the ceiling. Downstairs in the 1,800-square-foot wine cellar, a long, communal table seats 12 to 14 people for intimate dinners and gatherings.
Upstairs, the 2,700-square-foot “parlor” was designed to be more opulent and luxurious with shades of purple and charcoal, tufted leather banquettes, purple velvet barstools and a granite-topped bar seating 10. Private dining space can seat about 35 to 40 people.
The downstairs bar will offer 24 wines on tap. From the kitchen, small plates and a handful of entrées will focus on high quality and local ingredients by a not-yet-announced talented, European-trained chef.
“What has happened over the last few years is the wine community has been embracing the esoteric and the unknown, and that has really separated the customer from the industry, as opposed to the cocktail and beer industry, which has done a great job of educating the public and presenting different items in a much friendlier way,” says Powers.