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Tzar Ultra Lounge Coming to River North With Vodka Vault

Tzar Ultra Lounge, a swank new spot set amidst the oontz-oontz clubs of River North's, um, Red Bull Row, is scheduled to open its doors around March 18 in the former White Star space. When it does, it aims to offer a more sophisticated option with luxe decor, a catwalk for fashion shows and a VIP "vodka vault." Yes, Chicago will have a vodka vault.

The vodka vault will house upwards of 150 different types of vodka from around the globe. The room, about 8 x 10 feet and encased in glass on three sides, will be kept at a chilly 27 degrees—and furs and heavy wool coats will be supplied, natch. The vault will serve as a VIP attraction in that if your group orders up bottle service (with two or more bottles), you'll get invited in with a mixologist to concoct infused shots, special martinis or whatever. Otherwise, you'll be relegated to simply choose from a vast selection of Champagne, a 50-bottle wine list and a dozen or so signature cocktails.

Tzar hopes to attract an earlier post-dinner crowd for people who want to grab a drink, but not wait until 11 p.m. to hit a club. According to partner Myles Cunningham, the seating can be configured in such a way that the space is more reminiscent of an upscale hotel lobby bar that won't feel empty when it's not packed.

The room, about 9,000 square feet over two floors, will feature 27 distinct VIP-like seating areas that can accommodate small groups. There are two larger VIP areas on either side of the vodka vault and will be lit by LED panels built into the floor. Another LED panel will run down the center of the 30-foot bar and act as a catwalk for fashion shows or events—because what's cooler than having your glass of Dom kicked over by a leggy model in 10-inch stilettos?

Elsewhere, the lounge, awash in black, gold and deep reds, will feature a recessed nine-foot-long fireplace, tufted leather ceilings, black and silver mosaic tiles by the main bar and a faux-fur-lined ceiling by the back bar. Clearly some coin was dropped to bling up the place.

Tzar is the first nightlife venture for Cunningham and his business partner, James Oraha; the pair owns Level Builders, and has experience in the restaurant business, including renovating Kinzie Chophouse. They tapped DJ White Shadow as house DJ; nabbed Rainer Zach, former director of operations for the Sound Bar Group to act as general manager; hired Aimee Wertepny of ProductPROjECT Interiors to create a sleek and chic vibe; and enlisted Jagoli Furniture to build custom-made pieces throughout the space.

Cunningham said he feels like there's nothing else like this in the city for the 28-50 crowd. "We're taking that experience we've all had, but stepping it up a little bit," he said. "You spend a little bit more on the build out, add Four Seasons-type service and take your regular type of lounge and jack it up a bit."

CORRECTION: On April 3, we received a call from David Lynn, who said he owns the building that formerly housed White Star at 225 W. Ontario. We incorrectly published that Tzar Ultra Lounge would be going into that space, but rather in the space next door at 215 W. Ontario. Lynn said that while White Star has been closed for more than five years, they are working on opening "something really amazing in Chicago." We'll keep you posted as we learn more.

Tzar Ultra Lounge

215 W. Ontario St., Chicago, IL