Chicago Magic Lounge Brings Chicago-Style Magic (And So Much More) Back to Chicago

Chicago Magic Lounge held its grand opening on Thursday, February 22 and it was, in a word, magical.  It is unlike anything that Chicago currently has to offer.  Built in the shell of 7,200 square foot former commercial laundry, the newly renovated building now holds a 112-seat cabaret theater, a library, a front bar and a VIP performance room where 43 guests have the opportunity to watch close up magic.  There is a room exclusively reserved for magicians to meet.

The style is 1920s Art Deco and the walls are adorned with posters of famous magicians.  Every detail has been considered.  There are secret entrances and surprises around every corner.  Clever and intriguing, even for non-magic buffs, Chicago Magic Lounge is a spectacular way to spend an evening.

Magician Justin Purcell with guests photo by Daniel Boczarski

Chicago Magic Lounge is the creation of Joey Cranford and Donald Clark, Jr.  Cranford emceed the event and was clear about the mission of the Chicago Magic Lounge:  “We are bringing Chicago style magic back to Chicago.”  As far back as the 1920s, Chicago has been home to as many as 15 bars, restaurants and lounges that were dedicated to Chicago style, or close up, magic. One by one, they disappeared. 

Cranford and Clark hope to revive the genre with this opening and by putting the Chicago Magic Lounge in Andersonville, it is their goal to bring it to the people of Chicago.  “We wanted to keep it in the neighborhood,” said Cranford.  “We could’ve put this on Hubbard Street. But our focus is less on the tourists—they’ll find us—and more on the people of Chicago.” 

The stunning cabaret theater is named after Harry Blackstone, Sr, arguably Chicago’s most famous magician. Both Harry Blackstone Sr and Harry Blackstone Jr are deceased, but one poignant moment of the evening was a short video greeting and blessing of the new Blackstone Theater by Gay Blackstone, wife of Harry Blackstone Jr and a producer in her own right.

Upon entering the Chicago Magic Lounge, guests first encounter the performance bar, where they can order craft cocktails with clever names such as “Smoke and Mirrors,” “Abracadabra” and “How Harry Houdini Died” and watch the first round of magic. 

Ushered into the cabaret theater through the library, guests can order decadent small bites like the Green City Market Crudite and the Publican Sausage Board.  While waiting for drinks and food, magicians visit each table to delight and amaze by performing close up sleight-of-hand and card tricks.  Each young magician seems as excited to perform as the patrons do to watch. 

Cranford was the host of the evening and introduced the two main stage performers:  Arthur Trace (Gold Medal, International Brotherhood of Magicians) and Max Maven, who is an international author and performer.  Both magicians were top showmen, entertaining and often using audience members to assist and verify. 

After the mainstage show, guests with passes were ushered into Club 654 for one last round of close up magic, dubbed “the future of magic.”  Alba, the Argentine illusionist and the only South American female to perform at the Magic Castle, closed the evening with more close-up magic. This was my favorite part of the evening.  (Mostly because Alba is charming and each trick was better than the last, but also because I sat next to Jason Sudekis, the dreamy star of SNL and Horrible Bosses.)

The Chicago Magic Lounge seeks to combine bar magic, table magic and stage magic with great food and craft cocktails.  It will be open 7 days a week, with a different focus most nights.  Mondays will feature live jazz.  Tuesdays will feature vocalists.  Wednesdays, David Parr who recently won on Penn & Teller: Fool Us, will open his “Cabinet of Curiosities.”  Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays will feature the mainstage magic shows.  On Sundays, young magicians are welcome at a family friendly matinee.  Every day will feature close up magic because that’s Chicago magic.

Chicago Magic Lounge is located at 5050 N. Clark Street.  Look for a sign of a washing machine; the entrance is unmarked.

photos by Daniel Boczarski






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