Preserving an almost forgotten history
The Chicago Magic Lounge was conceived in 2015 as an homage to the historic, Chicago magic bar and restaurant scene. The aim was to reintroduce close-up and parlor magic to an adult, nightlife audience, while also creating a community of professional, working magicians. Originally produced as a one-night-a-week show at a rental theater space, the Chicago Magic Lounge grew in popularity throughout its two-and-a-half-year run.
"Chicago-style" magic, also known as restaurant and bar magic, has roots in the city going back to 1915. At the time, magic was only seen on large stages from about 50 feet away with no audience interaction. But just as the Compass Players broke the proverbial “4th wall” in 1959 leading Chicago into the next generation of comedy, Matt Schulien moved magic from the stage to the spectator's table and right under their nose at his restaurant Schulien's, at 1800 N. Halsted.
Mixed with laughter, libation, and an adult crowd, “Magic Bars” would begin to emerge on all sides of the city. From Ryan’s Magic Tap on the West side to The New York Lounge and Frank Everheart’s Magic Bar on the North side, to Little Bit O’ Magic on the South side and out to the near suburbs with Jonny Paul’s Magic Lounge, Mr. C’s Magic Lounge , Houdini’s Pub and the Magic Touch, close-up magic was an integral part of Chicago nightlife.
Today, all the original magic bars in Chicago are gone, so too is the memory that bar/restaurant magic was born here. Though magic left Chicago's nightlife, the tradition had already spread all over the country and abroad. All over this country you will find footsteps of Chicago magic in bars such as The Artisan Bar at The Stonebridge Inn in Snowmass, Colorado where you can see the legendary Doc Eason perform sleight of hand, or stop by the Schooner Warf Bar in Key West where Frank Everheart Jr. continues the family business performing 5-nights-a-week behind the bar. I’ve personally enjoyed a pint at the Ale House Pub, also known as Sleight, the only magic pub in Bath, England. In Paris, visit Le Double Fond, Le Cafe-Theatre De La Magie to see restaurant magic and an intimate, close-up show in their cellar-turned-close-up-gallery.
As with anything else created in Chicago, we believe it should be remembered and celebrated. Just as Muddy Waters changed the blues when he plugged in his guitar and Paul Sills brought improv games to the stage, Matt Schulien sat and had a laugh and a drink with his patrons changing magic forever. We are here to preserve this contribution to the magical arts.
Joseph Cranford, CEO / Co-Owner