Preview Party at Castle Chicago
By Michelle Stroner
Last night, February 28, 2013, Castle Chicago hosted a preview party in honor of the grand opening of Castle, the product of combining Excalibur and Vision Nightclub. Since both clubs were under the same management, it was only a matter of time before they were to be rebranded and revamped into one venue. Even though it’s now one venue, there are four different rooms that people can go between, each with its own music and overall atmosphere. The distinction between the different environments was made clear last night, as most of the middle-aged crowd was on the lower, more chilled levels, and the younger crowd mostly stayed on the upper club levels. Located in the heart of River North, the opening of Castle should bring in returning clients as well as generate new clientele with the changes that have been made to the venue.
Industry and media representatives as well as local government celebrated this event that is a new beginning. Upon arriving, guests first enter into the Craft Pub and Eatery, which takes up most of the main floor and the basement. This area allows people to order from a diverse menu of food and drinks. It was definitely one of the more crowded spaces as guests wanted to try anything and everything on the menu. It’s one of the more relaxed rooms that caters to the bar scene, playing older music that everyone knows. In the basement, there are billiard tables and more seating areas. Going back up to the first floor, it also holds the Cabaret room, a more sophisticated area dedicated to more of the live entertainment side of things. There are even dueling pianos at the front of the room, which makes for a fun time.
As guests make their way up the grand staircase, they will encounter the biggest room of the venue, Palladium, which plays a variety of EDM; last night, it was house music. I’ve been to the club before when it was just Excalibur, and I liked it. But after seeing the changes, I like it even more. The whole layout is more practical. The stage is still in the side room on the right when guests walk up the stairs, but instead of walking into the side room and having the stage be on the right, it’s directly in front. The stage was switched so that it now faces out into the other big room on that floor, which is what needed to happen since that space was barely being used before. Because there was no stage/DJ in that room, people that hung out there would just have some drinks and maybe do a little dancing. At least that’s my experience with the older setup. Now that the direction of the stage has changed, it makes for much better use of the space that’s available.
Also in the side room with the main stage, which resembles The Executioner from Excision’s latest tour but on a much smaller scale, are multi-level bars and seating areas. The right side of the room has a staircase that leads to a small seating area just above the dance floor. The left gives guests more access to seating and a couple separate bars. Instead of just going up one flight of stairs, guests can take a winding staircase up to a third level which gives access to the top viewing area as well as a bar. Going up even further, the ceiling had a few interesting props for entertainment, including a rope, a bar that looked like it could be from a trapeze act, and a drape of silk for a performing aerialist. Unfortunately, these items weren’t in use when I was there for the preview, but I can’t wait to see them in action when I come back for events. Luckily, the lasers and lights all over the room kept guests entertained.
As club-goers make their way towards the back left-hand corner of the bigger room near the bar and VIP tables, they’ll find a small set of stairs that will take them to Sanctuary, the former Vision. This room also plays EDM, but it’s more top 40s remixes than anything else. The layout of Sanctuary was not changed very much at all. Only some décor, lighting, and seating had been altered. Vision was my favorite club at one point (about a year and a half ago), but after a while I noticed that the club was becoming less and less crowded. Most people that came to Vision would just spend most of their night at Excalibur. Knowing this, I found it interesting that most of the changes made to the venue were on the Excalibur side. A revolving door was added to the ground floor of Sanctuary that connects to the main room of the Craft Pub and Eatery. I would like to say that because of the renovations, the Vision side will become more popular again, but after seeing the minimal changes and the lack of people that were in that room on preview night, I can’t say with certainty that I think it’ll happen. Hopefully the door on the main level will help generate traffic into that part of the venue instead of just having one entrance connected to Palladium.
Even though I’m skeptical about how successful the Sanctuary room will be, I have no doubt that the new Castle Chicago venue will come back with a bang, as last night turned out to be a success. The March 1st grand opening will have Roger Sanchez as the main DJ in Palladium and Chris Cox with Phil Da Beatz and Milty Evans in Sanctuary. March 2nd it will be Chris Lake, Garrett B, and RJ Pickens behind the decks. With an opening weekend of what seems to be great acts, Castle should be rocking the whole time.
About Castle Chicago:
Castle Chicago: A Celebration of Life and Nightlife
Castle is dedicated to the style and spirit of those who celebrate life and the pursuit of happiness. Throughout its various environments, Castle seeks to create an innovative, unique blend of influences from around our world in the areas of music, fashion, decoration, performing arts, technology and social interaction.
Palladium manifests the power of sound, light and technology to energize the human spirit and create a bond through the vibrant beats of musically inspired performers, dancing and sensory exploration.
Sanctuary is open to all lifestyles, exploring and encouraging levels of understanding and friendship through communal enjoyment of innovative music, dance and visual arts.
Cabaret is a celebration of fun and togetherness among the closest of friends and strangers from around the world, in an unabashed display of humor, dancing and entertainment on a live stage.
Craft Pub & Eatery provides comfort, warmth and relaxation, with the luxury of quality craft cocktails and chefs creations to satiate the palate and restore the energy and spirit of those who make Castle truly a Celebration of Life and Nightlife. The street level Castle Craft Pub & Eatery serves a wide variety of high quality sharable items, featuring hand-tossed Neapolitan pizza prepared in a 900 degree wood-fired brick oven, as well as hand made sandwiches and chef-inspired small plates, microbrew draft beers and handcrafted cocktails. The atmosphere is that of a regal English pub, with comfortable bar seating, cozy booths, and living room lounge pits across various areas of the pub, as well as billiard tables in the lower level. Guests can watch the Castle chefs create their dishes in the open kitchen, built around the wood fired brick oven.
The Castle also offers Chicago's most distinctive non-hotel private event spaces with built-in AV capabilities found no where else in Chicago, including LED video walls and 3D projection systems, for private events from 30 to 3,000.
The Castle is located in the heart of Chicago's River North dining and entertainment district, 632 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago 60654, (312) 266-1944, www.castlechicago.com.