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Iconic Drag Bar Baton Show Lounge Leaving River North After 50 Years Because Of High Rent, Owner Says

The famed drag bar will move to Uptown.

The Baton is moving to the home of the former Uptown Underground, 4707 N. Broadway.
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CHICAGO — The Baton Show Lounge is leaving River North after 50 years in the same location.

The famous drag bar has been at 436 N. Clark St. since 1969, but owner Jim Flint said he is being forced to move the business at the end of the year due to the high cost of the area.

“The rent has escalated so much that I can’t keep up with the expenses,” Flint said.

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said in a Tuesday newsletter that the drag bar will move to 4707 N. Broadway, once the home of burlesque venue Uptown Underground.

In a joint statement, Cappleman and Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Uptown “is on the rise.” 

“From the new Baton Show Lounge to the new Double Door to the soon-to-be renovated Uptown Theater to storied favorites like the Aragon Ballroom and Green Mill, a vibrant entertainment district with incredible neighborhood venues is emerging in Uptown. And the whole city will benefit,” the statement read. 

In a post to its website, the Baton Lounge wrote that it would be celebrating its “final New Year’s on Clark Street” to end 2018.

“It’s very upsetting because I was only 27 [when I started the Baton Lounge] and the area was ‘Skid Row’ at the time, and I’ve seen it develop over the 50 years,” Flint said. “There’s a lot of great memories, but a lot of bad memories in moving.”

The bar has had movie stars and other celebrities visit, Flint said. Among the celebrity guests over the years was RuPaul, a famous drag queen and the host of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Madonna and Oscar-winning actress Shirley MacLaine, according to Cappleman’s newsletter.

It also created legends: like trans performer Chilli Pepper, who reflected on her time at The Baton in an interview with Broadly this week. 

“I think the people have been the biggest highlight,” Flint said.

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