Client Happenings: Virgin Hotels Celebrates First-Ever Grand Opening in Chicago
This year marked a milestone for Chicago and the history of the Virgin brand with the opening of Virgin Hotels first-ever hotel property. Virgin Hotels Chicago officially marked its grand opening on April 16, with a spectacle fitting of Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin brand Crowds stormed the Chicago streets outside of the hotel to watch Sir Richard Branson inaugurate his first hotel while recreating the iconic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off parade scene, complete with a replica of the original float and singing renditions of Twist & Shout and Danke Schoen. It truly was one for the books!
Prior to opening its doors, Zapwater had the unique opportunity to work with the brand and engage potential local consumers through some one-of-a-kind activations. From CHema Skndl! painting rumors surrounding the hotel and mini-Richard Branson’s on the construction site, to dropping welcome mats in front of other hotels to announce the arrival, to hooking up W City Center and JW Marriot hotel guests with free Wi-Fi from a branded truck, to finally an intimate rooftop dinner across from the hotel serving as a Peep Show of the upcoming menu. Locals were certainly buzzing about the hotel and couldn’t wait for the iconic brand to open.
Watch all the pre-opening fun unfold at: Shake Things Up with Virgin Hotels Chicago
The hotel itself is located in heart of Chicago's Loop district in the historic Old Dearborn Bank Building at 203 N. Wabash Ave. The 26-story Art Deco building, a Chicago landmark, offers 250 guest rooms, including 40 one-bedroom suites and two Penthouse Suites.
Since the Virgin Hotels brand inception, eliminating fees and surcharges has been top priority, along with creating an experience that allows guests to feel that Virgin Hotels is their place in the city. A champion of the customer, the hotel brand offers free Wi-Fi (at unlimited bandwidth) and has eliminated early check-in fees, late check-out fees, room service delivery charges, business center transactions, and other services that have caused frustration for travelers.
Several of the building’s original features remain intact and are showcased throughout, like a beautiful 1920’s oak Cigar Bar that serves as the hotel’s front desk, ornate brass elevator doors, and the original mail slot and chute serving all floors.
At the heart of Virgin Hotels Chicago is The Commons Club, a dynamic space where guests can dine, drink, work and mingle, as well as attend the nightly hosted Social Hour. The vibe is one of a private members club, without the fees, where guests and locals alike are welcome. The two-story space it occupies was the original bank floor with its beautiful coffered plaster ceiling.
The Commons Club menu, created by Chef Rick Gresh, features a variety of internationally influenced small plates, from Stuffed Potato Tots to a Cauliflower Caesar to Cider Mussels to a Lobster Flatbread and the Eye of the Ribeye, Chef Gresh’s one-of-a-kind black truffle tattoo technique adorned on a Ribeye served with bone marrow mac n cheese.
The hotel offers four additional dining options, including Miss Ricky’s, a late-night All-American diner on the ground floor of the hotel. The restaurant is an indulgent dream and features amazing modern takes on diner fair.
To kick-off the opening of Miss Ricky’s, Zapwater and the hotel engaged with local foodies, bloggers and influencers for an all-day Instagram party. Guests were invited in to try out the delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner options and snap a picture using the hashtag #QuickyWithRicky to track the conversation. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and the photos were just as tasty as the food itself.
Watch a recap of the activation at: Get Behind the Scenes at Miss Ricky's & Dig In
Two Zero Three, named for the hotels address, serves as a coffee house by day, wine bar by night, featuring locally brewed coffee by Bow Truss and a selection of rare and unique wines. A variety of house-baked pastries, regional cheeses and locally produced charcuterie are also served.
Cerise, a rooftop bar and lounge located on the hotel’s 26th floor is a collaboration with Italian designer, Paola Navone. The space embodies a whimsical and playful aesthetic, giving guests a peek inside her wild imagination. From the moment guests depart the elevators, they are immersed in bold hues of blue with touches of red and green, unexpected trinkets from Navone’s global travels and expansive views of Chicago’s historic architectural skyline, including the Jewelers’ Building. Cerise expands the entire width of the hotel, including a terrace that wraps around three sides. Two bars are situated at the far ends of the rooftop, with an assortment of large, plush couches both indoors and out. The menu features Izakaya-inspired fare and an incredible cocktail program. Cerise officially opened it’s doors on April 29, but not before having a killer kick-off party with Questlove.
The best part are the chambers! Featuring a two-chamber room layout, with small touches that make traveling for business or leisure an easier experience, Virgin’s guest rooms are truly one-of-a-kind. All rooms are divided into two spaces by sliding doors, complete with a peephole. The dressing room includes a full vanity, make-up desk and mirror, an extra-large shower with a bench, and his and hers closets. Virgin has also taken the bed to another level with its ergonomic design and plush bedding.
The hotel is truly an urban paradise and incorporates all of the things a modern day traveler is looking for in one smart space.
- Annie Block, Vice President