UPTOWN — What is a legendary drag club to do when it is allowed to host performances, but customers are skittish about congregating indoors?
If you’re the Baton Show Lounge, you take the show outside.
Baton Show Lounge, 4713 N. Broadway, opened a new patio last week, complete with a small performance area and stage lighting. The space has allowed the famed drag club to employ some of its performers and make money after months of being shut down, said owner Jim Flint.
“It’s working out really good so far,” Flint said. “The neighbors love it. It puts some excitement on the street.”
The patio seats 42 socially distanced customers and is open Tuesday-Sunday. During the week, performances start 5:30 p.m. and occur about every 15 minutes, Flint said. On Saturdays and Sundays, shows start 2 p.m.
Baton serves drinks and some food items like desserts, and it allows customers to order food from neighboring restaurants to eat on the patio. The setup seems to be working for the club and nearby restaurants who don’t have cafe seating of their own, Flint said.
“It’s going to add a lot to the neighborhood,” he said.
The Baton moved to Uptown in spring 2019 after leaving its River North location, where the pioneering club had been since 1969. The move was due to the soaring cost of rent in River North, Flint said.
The move was working well for Baton, but then the coronavirus pandemic hit. Performance venues have been among the hardest-hit industries, with many preferring to stay closed despite being allowed to reopen with restrictions.
“It was never like this,” Flint said of the impact to businesses. “This is terrible.”
Baton opened its indoor theater in July after the city moved into Phase 4 of its reopening plan. Those shows have done less well than the patio performances, Flint said.
“People are still hesitant to go inside,” he said. “With the patio, it helps us, but it’s very difficult.”
If the city could do one thing to help, Flint said he would ask that the 11 p.m. curfew for business be lifted as long as the strict capacity limits are in place.
Despite the hardships, Flint said he is happy to be back in business and providing entertainment during trying times.
“I’m very happy to be in Uptown,” he said. “If we all stay happy and stay strong, we can get through this.”
Baton’s patio is open 4:30-11 p.m. Monday-Friday and noon-11 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
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