Choosing a Venue

Chicago's First Lady
Angela Renée Photograph

“Location, location, location” isn’t only a mantra reserved for real estate, but also one any event planner knows. The choice of venue literally sets the stage, and spaces specifically designed to host events are always good bets. Take the Chicago Illuminating Company, for example, which is actually a complex of three unique spaces.

Housed in a 1900s two-story, a former power plant/warehouse, it also features a 6,500-square-foot urban garden and 6,000-square-foot adjacent rental building. “We have this hands-on concierge, boutique approach to our clients,” says President/Owner Marta Michulka. “We’re not just the space – we give our clients the same service you’d receive if you went to a high-end hotel.”

With hardwood floors, tile mosaic detailing and original steel beams, this South Loop space at 19 East 21st Street is elegant, “but has enough of the architectural/industrial elements so that it’s very finished and very modern,” Ms. Michulka says. Indeed, events here range from corporate retreats to furniture shows (thanks to its proximity to McCormick Place), and it’s often used as a set for commercials, films and TV.

City Winery Carasco Photograph

City Winery
Carasco Photograph

If you want to get away without boarding a flight, City Winery brings “wine country to the city so you have the feel of being in Napa, but can access it right here in the trendy West Loop,” explains Marketing Director Rita Chen. This spacious working winery at 1200 West Randolph Street has “versatile spaces tucked in every corner of the 33,000-square-foot space, from the barrel room surrounded by wine aging in barrels to the 300-seat concert hall with a nice stage for speakers and built-in A/V.”

This made-for-music space features a premium Meyer sound system and has hosted international stars including Prince and Sinead O’Connor. And “because we’re a working winery, we are able to offer unique touches,” says Ms. Chen. This includes custom-labeled wine bottles with company logos or wedding photos and ‘blind’ tasting parties. During warmer months, City Winery’s outdoor wine garden is a hit for those hosting weddings and corporate receptions.

Now it’s off to France, or at least you’ll feel like you’re there while inside The Murphy Chicago – an architectural jewel at 50 East Erie Street whose French Renaissance-style is reminiscent of the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Consolation in Paris. Built in 1926, the John B. Murphy Memorial Auditorium was renovated in 1987 and restoration work was completed in 2006. The Murphy is available for weddings, corporate events, exhibits and more. Hold a reception for up to 300 or a live show for up to 520. But keep in mind capacities exclude a dance floor.

A space taking advantage of its urban location and production roots is Morgan Manufacturing, scheduled to open in spring 2014. Huge skylights, soaring ceilings and heavy timber, brick and concrete elements “celebrate the manufacturing heritage of the building,” observes Production Director Sara Barg of the space at 401 North Morgan Street. The first event for the new venue is booked for April 2014 and 20 more are scheduled throughout the rest of the year. “Booking with us will save you the headache of contracting a dozen other vendors to produce your event,” says Ms. Barg. “Our team is full of ideas and won’t leave you hanging. Communication is key, and so is creativity.”

Ms. Barg’s goal is for Morgan Manufacturing to be a “full-on production location,” hosting everything from film and photo shoots to fundraisers and galas to events that celebrate performance art. Another bonus, says Ms. Barg: “A lot of people may not realize that powering our production space is an on-site distillery where we will produce our own spirits.”

Opening in March 2014 is Revel Downtown, a 13,000-square-foot venue at 440 West Randolph in the space formerly occupied by N9NE Steakhouse. A joint venture between seasoned event planning company The Revel Group and Limelight Catering, this all-inclusive, multi-purpose space is ideal for business and social gatherings.

Revel Downtown accommodates 400 to 800 guests depending on the style of event, and the space can be completely transformed for your fairy tale wedding or high-tech corporate function. “Couples can enjoy a stress-free wedding celebration with one call, one point of contact, and a uniquely tailored event that will fit their personal lifestyle,” assures Clint Paton, principal of The Revel Group. For smaller business gatherings of 100 to 200, Mr. Paton recommends The Loft, a 5,000-square-foot space right above the main venue – and both spaces can be rented together for one giant celebration. Reservations will likely fill up fast, but don’t fear…Revel Motor Row and Revel River North are coming soon.

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