Vir­gin Ho­tel

Chicago

Business Traveler (USA) - - TRIED & TESTED -

BACK­GROUND: The world’s first Vir­gin ho­tel opened in Chicago in 2015. Pitched as a life­style brand com­bin­ing“smart in­no­va­tion”with “straight­for­ward value,”Vir­gin Ho­tels will next launch prop­er­ties in Palm Springs (2018), Nashville, NewYork and Dal­las (all 2019). It plans to have 20 ho­tels by 2025, with Euro­pean ex­pan­sion in its sights.

WHERE IS IT? An ex­cel­lent down­town lo­ca­tion on North Wabash Av­enue in the heart of the Loop, a few min­utes’walk from the Chicago River and Mil­len­nium Park.

Friendly, glam­orous and very Vir­gin, the ho­tel is in the 26-story Old Dear­born Bank build­ing, a 1920s Art Deco land­mark. Design firm Rock­well Group has fused the Vir­gin per­son­al­ity into the prop­erty while restor­ing its orig­i­nal fea­tures, in­clud­ing the lobby’s grand stair­case, brass el­e­va­tor doors and oak ci­gar bar (now the front desk). There’s lots of red, as you might exp ect, and staff mem­bers are trendy and pro­fes­sional.

ROOM FA­CIL­I­TIES: The ho­tel has 250 rooms – or “Cham­bers”– in­clud­ing 38 one-bed­room suites and two pent­houses. They are clev­erly de­signed, with sleep­ing and dress­ing ar­eas di­vided by wooden slid­ing doors. The dress­ing sec­tion in­cludes a walk-in rain­shower, make-up ta­ble and am­ple space. Ameni­ties are by Red Flower. The cus­tom-de­signed Vir­gin King bed has a sofa-like padded er­gonomic headboard –for those who like to work or eat on their lap – plus a cor­ner seat built into the foot of the bed.

There’s also a desk, free WiFi, a sleek Stellé speaker, bed­side plug sock­ets and USB ports, and a 42-inch LG smart TV from which you can con­trol the air con­di­tion­ing and or­der room ser­vice (no de­liv­ery charge). The mini­bar is fairly priced (Coke $1, beer $3, spir­its $7), and tea and cof­fee are pro­vided. The rooms are smart and un­fussy, with hard­wood floor­ing and gray felt wall cov­er­ings. My 19th-floor Cham­ber King had a great view of the river, but only one bed­side ta­ble, so I had to leave my phone and glass of wa­ter on the floor. RESTAU­RANTS AND BARS: The red-car­peted lobby stair­case leads up to the Com­mons Club, in­tended to be the brand’s sig­na­ture lounge con­cept. It fea­tures a dou­ble-height bar of­fer­ing free drinks and made-to-or­der cock­tails for guests from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM (a nice touch); the“Funny Li­brary,”with large ta­bles for work plus books and games; and the semi-pri­vate Shag Room, with bur­lesque pho­tos on the wall.

Miss Ricky’s is an all-day Amer­i­can diner that serves a good break­fast, and Two Zero Three is a cof­fee bar by day and a wine bar by night. On the top floor is Cerise, a funky rooftop bar with a wrap­around ter­race of­fer­ing fab­u­lous views. DJs play here, while live mu­sic and com­edy take place regularly in Up­stairs on the 25th floor. MEET­ING AND LEISURE FA­CIL­I­TIES: Three event spa­ces on the third floor hold be­tween 12 and 120 peo­ple. Cerise, Up­stairs and parts of the Com­mons Club can also be booked, and Miss Ricky’s has a pri­vate din­ing area. The 25th-floor gym has Techn­o­gym equip­ment and a cov­ered ter­race with As­tro­Turf, loungers and yoga mats. The base­ment spa has five treat­ment rooms and a ham­mam.

VERDICT: A very im­pres­sive de­but for Vir­gin’s ho­tel arm. Un­doubt­edly hip, it’s also wel­com­ing and well thought-out, with a re­fresh­ing ap­proach to pric­ing the ex­tras and an ex­cel­lent ar­ray of din­ing and drink­ing venues. Most en­joy­able in the“City that works!”

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