UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — A popular queer open mic night in Ukrainian Village is expanding to a new space — but it isn’t going far.
Fruit Salad, a monthly open mic night launched last year by Rainn T. and The Martin gallery owner Whitney LaMora, highlights queer artists and performers of all kinds. It started at The Martin, but its popularity means it needs a larger space — so the organizers are moving it to Dorothy, a queer-forward bar just a floor beneath The Martin.
The event is a collaboration between T. and LaMora, who opened The Martin, 2500 W. Chicago Ave., last summer after moving from another space in Humboldt Park. T., who hosts and curates Fruit Salad, said they were inspired to launch their own event after not finding anything else quite like it in the local DIY and art scene.
There are a lot of “queer-adjacent open mics, but nothing that said this is the place for queer people. And taking that approach as far as one, it’s queer; two, really focusing on people who just have not had that chance to be out and do their art in public in front of other people,” T. said.
Since October, the event has been held at The Martin, which is attached to the restaurant Split-Rail at the corner of Chicago and Campbell avenues.
The event features eight — soon to be 10 — short performances by anyone who wants to sign up, followed by a featured performer booked by T.
“It ends up being a really beautiful, vulnerable experience,” LaMora said. “I think Rainn especially is an incredible host, they make everyone feel super comfortable. They go up when the mic starts and say, ‘Here’s the vibe. We’re going to clap for people as they’re getting up and until they get all the way up here and then we’re going to clap them all the way back to their seats.'”
In just a few months, Fruit Salad’s popularity has exploded.
LaMora said by the open mic’s second month, it was already standing room only. And it’s grown from there.
“People for the last one just kept coming and kept coming and kept coming and I was like, ‘OK … we have 75 bodies in here. … That is great and too many people for the space.’ So clearly we have outgrown the space,” she said.
Luckily, T. and LaMora had another option just one floor below.
LaMora’s partner, Zoe Schor, is the chef and owner of Split Rail, which opened in 2017.
In February 2020, Schor and business partner Michelle Szot also opened Dorothy, a queer-forward bar in the restaurant’s basement. Szot is also Dorothy’s beverage director.
Dorothy was only in business for a few weeks before COVID-19 shut down the state’s hospitality industry in March 2020. Dorothy finally reopened for good in January.
A former Ukrainian sports bar, Dorothy features retro ’70s furniture, a conversation pit and a vintage bar top left by the space’s previous tenant.
Now, it will also be be the new home of Fruit Salad, lending its expansive space — and cocktails and beer list — to the open mic night.
“I’m glad [Fruit Salad] outgrew The Martin and we get to have a little piece of it, because it’s a very exciting event. It’s what this space is for. This space is to be a queer space, and it’s also to be a space where cool events happen. So I’m very excited about that,” Schor said.
Fruit Salad is held every third Wednesday of the month. The next is on Feb. 16. Dorothy is open Thursday-Sunday.
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