When I heard about Chicago’s new Beauty Bar, it sounded failproof: a kitschy retro beauty parlor, real manicures and a full bar. What’s not to love? But as the saying goes, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” And so was the case at Beauty Bar, a new outpost of a national chain of nightspots that, in Chicago, took the space long occupied by the electronic-music mecca Sonotheque.
I imagined manicurist stations filling the space offering the full treatment and, who knows, maybe even a pedicure. Visions of nail polish in a rainbow of colors, hot towels and shoulder massages swam in my mind.
Once inside, the Beauty Bar of my imagination gave way as I took in the décor. Sparkling walls in turquoise and gold create a cocoon of glitter and small chandeliers reflect light in a multitude of vertiginous directions. Illustrations of women sporting beehives cast flirtatious glances from the safety of the walls. Beneath their gaze a long row of retro seafoam green blow-dry chairs beckons oppposite a golden backlit bar. Feeling as though I’d been flung into a seventies film set, a drink instantly seemed like a very good idea.
Beauty Bar’s cocktail list includes a selection of specialty $10 martinis and each drink comes with a coupon for a manicure. This is where the beauty in Beauty Bar comes in, but it seems like a disorganized afterthought.
In the front space nearest the door, two small tables are set up with manicurists busily filing and painting fingernails. The service isn’t exactly a full manicure, more of a polish change. And throughout my treatment, the next girl in line hovered about. Not that I blamed her: the demand for the manis was quite high and if you snooze, you lose.
A bar named Beauty Bar could put a bit more effort put into the beauty services. But hey, the drinks are stiff, so at least they got the bar part right. (Kari Skaflen)
Beauty Bar, 1444 West Chicago, beautybar.com. Manicures are offered nightly from 5pm till midnight.