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Lakeview, Wrigleyville, Northalsted

Stage 773 Theater Is Now WHIM, An Immersive, Art-Filled And Instagrammable Cocktail Bar

The new cocktail bar features over-the-top decorations that transport guests into fantastical settings, like an enchanted forest or clockwork cove.

About 100 artists worked on transforming Stage 773's Lakeview space into WHIM, an immersive cocktail lounge.
Provided/Stage 773
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LAKEVIEW — Arts-based nonprofit Stage 773 has transformed its space in Lakeview into an immersive cocktail bar.

WHIM, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., opened June 25 after months of converting Stage 773‘s four-theater building into a cocktail lounge with over-the-top decorations that transport guests into fantastical settings.

Walking in, patrons might first notice the “shoe shark” — a shark display created entirely out of recycled shoes — or a puffy, cloud-like display that appears to be raining toys and action figures over the bar.

“There are a lot of little easter eggs and things to play with in the space,” said Brad Younts, producer of WHIM, presented by Stage 773. “When you first walk in, you’re overwhelmed by the first things you see and the bigness of it, but then you start drilling down into these little details and there’s so much to check out.”

Credit: Provided/Stage 773
Customers can grab a drink in a small cove covered with ticking clocks.

WHIM is in its first phase, which will entail converting the entire four-theater building into creative lounge areas meticulously decorated by artists, Younts said. The first phase covers about 3,000 square feet of the 12,000-square-foot space.

Although the theaters are being converted into the bar’s lounge area, performances will still be a part of Stage 773’s building, Younts said. One room — the Enchanted Forest, decorated with a witches grotto, a mystical tree and more — has a stage for live performances, including theater, bands and karaoke.

“Several of the rooms will have this live performance element,” Younts said. “That could be a DJ who is in the space or a performer that is actually part of the room’s experience.”

Stage 773 plans to introduce more live theater elements as WHIM grows, Younts said.

The bar’s cocktails are also interactive, Younts said. Drinks are designed to be visually appealing with creative toppings and opportunities for customers to help create them.

The Tarty Party — a mix of vodka, triple sec and fresh lemon and lime juice — is topped with lemon-lime soda and a syringe full of pea flower syrup that can change the drink’s color and sweetness, Younts said.

Another interactive cocktail is the Chain Smoker, with tequila reposado, mezcal, bitters and agave syrup, Younts said. The drink is topped with smoked cherrywood chips that create smoke.

“There are lots of fun things to take pictures of, whether it’s just a picture of your drink or using the sets as a fun background,” Younts said.

Credit: Provided/Stage 773
The “Enchanted Forest” room features a witch’s grotto.

The idea for WHIM was conceived around August 2020, when theaters were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Younts said.

“It started with this idea of how we could get artists back to work during the pandemic,” Younts said. “But it was also a way to evolve the form of theater and explore other creative ways we could use our space.”

Among the team members behind WHIM is Brian Posen, who stepped down from Stage 773 in 2017 amid sexual harassment allegations. Posen worked as a long-distance consultant for WHIM.

Posen acknowledged these accusations in an emailed statement, saying he “behaved insensitively and accept[s] responsibility.”

“Although I do not believe all of the allegations were accurate,” Posen said. “I have entered counseling and moved out of state five years ago, where I have spent a great deal of time reflecting. I am accountable for my actions and am deeply sorry.”

WHIM is open 6 p.m.-midnight Wednesday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday and noon-8 p.m. Sundays.

Credit: Provided/Stage 773
WHIM, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

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