It's 12:30am (or 1:30am on Saturday), and reckless yet savvy Chicago night owls are thinking about making a move to a late-night bar, while amateurs buy another round that they will never finish. If you leave at this time, you can avoid the crush of people looking for a cab when the bar chucks out everyone usually about a half-hour before actual closing time and, when you get to your late-night destination, you're also likely to avoid the lines that start forming around the official closing time of all other Chicago bars. When you're looking for a place to ignore the Chicago Bar Project credo of "Nothing good ever happens after 2am," Bluelight is one of your better options in the area. Rather than being a dive bar with a sketchy crowd, clogged toilets and a sticky floor, or a pretentious lounge with jackass bouncers and long lines, Bluelight is cool bar that stands well on its own compared to other non-late-night options in the area, has a lively crowd and, if you haven't had enough to drink by this point, nothing sparks a conversation at the bar more so than a 32-ounce Bluelight Special.
Bluelight is located at the outskirts of Roscoe Village, just north of Belmont Avenue and on the east side of Western that runs along the viaduct, serving as an overpass across Belmont. What was once a used car lot now functions as parking between Bluelight and another late-night bar, Underbar, brought to you by the same people behind Green Eye and which is similar to Bluelight but attracts a slightly more Bohemian set who might make their way over from nearby Hungry Brain. The impressive Bluelight marquee for which the bar has become known, with its white neon lettering on a bright blue background, was created by Sign Studio.
Pass through the door, show your ID to the bouncer, and you'll find yourself in a long, narrow barroom with exposed brick walls, windows made from glass blocks and a hardwood floor. Three sought-after booths lie opposite a long wooden bar with old-fashioned porcelain lights hanging above it from a ceiling of black tile. The bar features a handful of beers on tap, a few more in bottles served from a walk-in cooler behind the bar and, more importantly, this is where you'll find the Bluelight Special. Rather than a time-sensitive K-Mart sale in the women's department, the Bluelight Special is a $12 concoction of Belvedere Vodka, Blue Curaçao and pineapple juice served in a 32-ounce glass mug with oversized straws meant for sharing and expedited inebriation. The effect reminds me of the Purple Haze and Aqua Velva once found at the now-defunct Artful Dodger, sans glow sticks.
Caution: this could happen to you...
In the rear of Bluelight, you'll find a surprisingly spacious backroom with banquette seating along the exterior of the room, making for good "mingling" space (read: prowling). Another wooden bar with handful of high-backed barstools forms the southern third of the space. If you're thinking of hosting a bachelor party in Chicago (as well as beer pong or flippy cup tournaments), you could book this space for a song, bring in your entertainment before the crowds come in (usually around midnight) and do just about whatever you please without anyone knowing about it. Just remember what happened in Very Bad Things... When you have to point Percy at the porcelain, the restrooms are located across from the ATM between both rooms and through the northern wall.
As for the crowd, not many police stop by, even with their district headquarters located a block away, but the joint does attract a fair number of firemen, along with a fair number of staff from other bars in the area. Bluelight is a late-night bar, so you'll find an impressively intoxicated crowd looking to "make new friends" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). If the crowd isn't enough entertainment for you, Bluelight has also has a MegaTouch screen at the end of the front bar and has also hosted wet t-shirt and bikini contests, as well as an annual Halfway to Halloween party in April. Afterwards, you'll find a plenty of cabs even with its somewhat out-of-the-way location as American United Cab Association is located at the corner of Belmont & Western.
"We came here for my birthday after we closed the Bob Inn. Me and about 10 of my friends proceeded to have them open the back so we could take that bitch over. We stayed in the back corner 'till they literally turned the lights on and herded us out the front door. In that time, I saw two of my friends get friendly, two of my friends argue loudly, and me and my friend almost fight some douchebag who tried to grab my other friends ass. And I did this all while constantly holding full whisky shots in each hand. Man, it was a kick ass time."
– Heather Z. on Yelp (July 1, 2008)
Not much is known about Bluelight's origins, but locals say it opened sometime in the early 70s, and leaned towards being a dive country bar with a pool table and darts, and catering to cops and three-legged dogs. In September 2006, the bar was reopened under the same ownership as Waterhouse, Pitchfork and Rebel Bar & Grill. Though it's late-night license draws the crowds after midnight, the bar opens at 7pm everyday except Monday (9pm). Bluelight doesn't serve food, but they'll let you order delivery early in the night, and there's always the Avondale edition of the Golden Nugget Pancake House nearby at Diversey, Western & Elston. So there you have it: if you are in flagrant violation of the 2am Rule, Bluelight is one of your best options on the North Side. For more information, check out the Bluelight website.
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