2012 Preview: 10 Most Anticipated New Chicago Venues for Events and Meetings

By Jenny Berg December 29, 2011, 12:00 PM EST

Rendering: Seed Design Studio

As we look ahead to the coming year, these are some of the most important new event and meeting venues slated to open, bringing options for everything from cocktail parties and conferences to business dinners and corporate meetings. Here's a preview of the hotels, restaurants, bars, lounges, and other spaces the event industry will be talking about in 2012.

1. From the team behind Mercadito, Tavernita opens early this year in River North. With a copper tin ceiling, filament bulb lighting, and tile flooring, the interior takes cues from Spanish restaurants. The Barcito, a lounge area with a glass-encased pintxo display, seats 92 and holds 140 for cocktails, and is available for private and semiprivate events. The 122-seat main dining room and a lounge area with room for 120 also host semiprivate functions. The venue is available for buyout, as well. Chef Ryan Poli's menu offers oysters, crostini and flatbreads, along with meats prepared on a Uruguayan wood-fired grill.

2. Chef Curtis Duffy, formerly of Avenues at the Peninsula, will open his own restaurant in mid-2012. Named Grace, the West Loop eatery will have a prix fixe menu—no specific dishes have been named yet—and a private dining room that seats 14. The lofty venue, decked with exposed brick walls and vertical beams, will seat about 75 guests.

3. The Park at Rosemont will host its grand opening in April. One block west of the Rosemont Convention Center, the complex will house several eateries. Included in the mix: Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, Landsdowne Irish Pub, Taverna Opa Greek Restaurant, Adobe Gilcas Mexican restaurant, a yet-unnamed martini bar, and Hofbräuhaus. Some of the eateries will host private events. There will also be a Zanies comedy club and the 29,000-square-foot King's bowling alley, which will host group outings. Anchored by Muvico Theatres Rosemont 18, the complex surrounds a four-season courtyard, which will host everything from ice skating to open-air film screenings throughout the year.

4. San Francisco-based Joie de Vivre will open Hotel Lincoln, its first Chicago property, around March. Overlooking the Lincoln Park Zoo—and in the same building as Boka Restaurant Group's Perennial Virant—the hotel will have 184 rooms, a rooftop bar and event space, and a European-style coffee bar and lounge in the lobby. Designer Andrew Alford of Dirty Lines Design said in a press release that the hotel “will have a very residential feel with an eccentric-meets-collegial preppy style.” The meeting space will seat 60 in a theater-style configuration, 30 classroom- and conference-style, and 40 for dinner. The hotel will also host receptions for 80 to 100.

5. From the owners of Girl and the Goat and Boka, Balena will take over the former Landmark space early this year. The Lincoln Park restaurant, designed by 555 International, has decor that reps describe as “comfortable with retro-Italian touches.” Beyond the vine-covered facade, the main bar area seats 20 and has a saddle-stitched leather bar top and a neon light installation. A neon sign inspired by Spain's Costa Brava region will cover an entire wall of the main dining room, which has saddle leather and black steel chairs and wire-bird's-nest light fixtures strung up with fairy lights. The room will also house a champagne bathtub and a separate private dining space. A mezzanine dining room will seat 40 and has floor-to-ceiling windows that allow for plenty of natural light. The basement wine cellar will host private events for 36. The menu will focus on Italian-inspired dishes with ingredients from Midwestern farms.

6. RM Champagne Salon will open in the West Loop around February. Sommelier Jason Wagner, former wine director at L'Atelier de Joel Röbuchon, will oversee the wine list. Menu items include rare cheeses, tea sandwiches, petit fours, and mignardises. The 1,500-square-foot space is tucked away at the end of a cobblestone alley. The interior, which holds 60, was inspired by the elegant style of Grace Kelly. Fresh flowers and candles decorate surfaces throughout, and antique hand mirrors and crystal perfume bottles spruce up the bar. Come spring and summer, a warm weather patio will seat 95 and host cocktail receptions for more than 200.

7. The Chicago Marriott Naperville is slated to reopen this spring after a transformation that involved gutting the entire space. The new property will have 25,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. Included is the 7,000-square-foot, 800-capacity Grand ballroom, reportedly the largest ballroom in Naperville. The 4,000-square-foot Naper ballroom will have floor-to-ceiling windows, and additional meeting and board rooms will host conferences or receptions. Amenities will include complementary transportation to local businesses, a full-service business center, on-site options for client entertaining, and an indoor swimming pool and a fitness center.

8. Swissôtel Chicago began a $10 million renovation in December 2011 and is slated to wrap up the overhaul in March. In the lobby, so-called check-in pods will replace the front desk. Staffers will be armed with laptops, and the concierge will have a tablet to quickly access information. Off the lobby, a new eatery called Amuse with a private dining room will serve small plates, wine, and specialty cocktails. The meeting space will get fresh, red-and-gold decor that includes new carpeting, wall coverings, and technology.

9. In December, the 752-room Westin Michigan Avenue announced a $7 million renovation to its 37,000 square feet of banquet, ballroom, conference, and meeting areas. Scheduled to wrap up in early March, the renovations will include new lighting and audio systems, faster Internet connectivity with the installation of Fatpipe—a bandwidth management network tool—and more flexibility in room configurations. The new space will also get the new High Performance Meeting Chairs by Starwood. Other upgrades will include new rigging points for staging equipment and insulation in the walls to make the rooms more soundproof. Local architect VOA Associates designed the new space.

10. Seasons restaurant at the Four Seasons Chicago will serve its last meal on New Year's Eve. The space will then close temporarily and is expected to reopen as the Seasons ballroom in early February. The space will accommodate 120 guests for seated dinners or host cocktail receptions for 200. The area that formerly housed the Seasons bar and lounge will also reopen as a to-be-named restaurant, which will host private events.

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