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Director of Nightlife Laura Modica Chats About The Library Bar

Welcome back to The Gatekeepers, a feature in which we roam the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.

[Photo: Timothy Hiatt]

When The Pump Room reopened in fall 2011, inside the Public Hotel, it reopened with a chic lounge in the back that quickly became a go-to night spot, The Library Bar. Lines quickly formed around the block with locals, tourists, and celebrities alike trying to get a glimpse of the rebuilt version of the historic restaurant and bar. The Library Bar has continued that business by hosting an array of parties, themes, and guests, while dealing with the masses. Laura Modica, the Public Hotel Director of Nightlife, chatted about how.

How has it been at Library Bar?
We've been super busy trying to keep up with all the reservations and events and curating some great playlists and celebrity DJ series. There have been some great things going on.

How are the wait times and getting in Library Bar different than The Pump Room?
I think we definitely have a different DNA from The Pump Room. You can only make so many reservations for The Pump Room restaurant. With the Library Bar, we like to keep a set amount of tables that are first-come, first-served and then we do have tables that larger birthday parties can reserve, like in the screening room and a couple tables in the Library Bar. The whole formula is we are public. Accessibility is about that chic lifestyle for everyone. We are trying to break down the ropes. We are over the hassle of trying to get on the guest list or meet the high minimum.

When you first reopened there were lines around the block and it was a couple hours to get in. Is it still like that?
No, that's not what we set the space up for. But because it was such an avalanche of excitement for Chicago it was just like waves and waves of guests that were just trying to take a glance. I think now we've gotten to a good consistent flow where everyone can enjoy it, regardless if they want to come during the day and enjoy the coffee bar in the morning or at 5:00 when we transition into a lounge.

How have you managed to cut down on those wait times?
We offer so much different programming throughout the week, it's just not a weekend destination. I think that's what has cut down on the lines outside. We have designated movie nights, Mad Men nights, BINGO, selected public lecture series. So the local socialites and A-list celebrities staying in the hotel can come throughout the week, just not on the weekend.

What are some celebrities that hang out there and stay there?
Lupe Fiasco spent his birthday here recently. Billy Corgan, Vampire Weekend, Passion Pit, Dr. Dre, and of course, Michael Jordan. The night that he popped the question to his girlfriend—now his wife—they came into the Library Bar to celebrate.

If you could single out one event that brought the biggest crowd, or the most talk, what would that be?
My top favorite was the Studio 54 party. It was amazing. It was just having all the local socialites, celebrities, having Jellybean Benitez and Marc Benecke, the original doorman of Studio 54, the man who created the guest list. It was such an honor for me to be a part of that.

Do people try to do anything special to get into these events?
I don't people really try to do anything special. It's not about who's who. It's all the genres of tax brackets. You'll have the socialites, the poor student, to maybe awesome, amazing drag queens to people that add to the vibe and the energy that make up something that's unique, that lightning in a bottle. It doesn't mean that the night is filled with just beautiful models—that doesn't make or break a great nightlife spot. I think that's the biggest mistake that most clubs in Chicago make.

Do you have any type of customers that you really like to see the most?
I love guests that just have high energy, just have that spark. I have a regular who is a certain demographic that you would never expect: he's probably in his late 60s and he's so much fun, he's a local Gold Coaster. Then I have another socialite girlfriend who is young and full of energy.

Do people have any really strange requests when they come in?
We definitely feel like there's no such thing as a strange request. It's definitely been a challenge with maybe last minute requests. My girlfriend's boyfriend approached me and we did a surprise engagement party for her. We decorated the Elizabeth Taylor suite with rose petals and candles and we put all her friends and family in the screening room.

How many people have gotten engaged there?
I'd say we've had close to 15. Everybody usually likes to do it in the screening room. I love putting up montages. It's so awesome to be apart of those memories. It's an honor, actually.

What places do you like to go to when you're not there?
I love Avec and I love Maude's Liquor Bar. And The Bedford.

What's the most interesting thing about your job?
The most interesting thing about my job is that not only am I curating entertainment and vibe, I'm also a translator for Ian Schrager. I've worked for him for over a decade. I'm a Midwest girl, but I've lived in LA and New York and opened properties for him in Istanbul, Hawaii, Miami. I basically have to always keep Ian Schrager's vision in mind.
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The Pump Room

1301 N. State Parkway, Chicago, Illinois 60610 312 787 3700

Library Bar

1301 N. State Pkwy, Chicago, IL