When the owners of Sportsman’s Club, Lone Wolf, and Estereo began planning their latest bar, Nights & Weekends, three years ago, they were not anticipating that construction would be stalled for nearly a year because of supply chain issues caused by a worldwide pandemic.
Heisler Hospitality’s newest venue, Nights & Weekends, opens Thursday night near the northwest corner of Lake and Morgan streets inside a space that co-owners Kevin Heisner and Matt Eisler once hinted would be the site of a revival of Bar DeVille, Heisler’s beloved West Town bar that closed four years ago. When they started planning Nights & Weekends, Heisner and Eisler were not anticipating the dance floor would be filled with people wearing face masks. And so, in the final days before the bar opens, they eliminated all of their more complicated plans and decided to concentrate on the basics.
“It doesn’t feel like the right time for overly fussy or indulgent kind of stuff right now,” Eisler says. “We’ve decided to keep the focus simply on having fun and providing a good time and enjoyable drinks.”
The cocktail menu, developed by general manager Anthony Mitchell (Revel Room), was streamlined as well, focusing on drinks bartenders can mix and pass off to customers as quickly as possible: “funky highballs” prepared with house-made sodas, and loaded Topo Chicos with booze added directly to the bottles so drinkers can easily carry them around. There will also be a few classic cocktails, but nothing with more than four ingredients.
Heisner, Eisler, and Mitchell expect to fill the 4,500-square-foot space that includes a 60-foot bar. Nights & Weekends will cater to a variety of bargoers, from the person who wants a quick drink and a chat with the bartender, to a group of friends hanging out before or after dinner, to someone who just wants to dance. (DJs will play on weekends, and bartenders will spin vinyl during the week.) But there won’t be a single TV to be found: the idea was to create a place where customers talk to each other. Heisner customarily designs Heisler’s spaces, and with Nights & Weekends, he split the room with furniture and sound design to make the room feel less cavernous.
Heisner is also a multi-disciplinary artist who displays his work under the pseudonym Shlumper, and he contributed several pieces of art to Nights & Weekends, including an outside mural that viewers can see in augmented reality on their phones by activating a QR code. There’s also a large stained-glass light fixture behind the bar created by artist Ben Houtkamp and a dried flower and disco ball installation over the DJ booth by Elizabeth Cronin of Asrai Gardens. The barstools and banquettes are upholstered with vintage Turkish kilim rugs.
Due to supply chain issues, Nights & Weekends is still a work in progress and some of the art elements are unfinished. But the management team is glad that, after three years, they’re finally ready to open.
“People are happy to be out,” he says. “If the music is good, the drinks are good, the lighting is good... I’m struggling to say something other than ‘vibe,’ but it’s a good vibe.”
Nights & Weekends, 1009 W. Lake Street, open 4:45 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Sunday through Friday and 4:45 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Saturday.