We've been waiting for quite awhile to finally get in bed with Sir Richard Branson and now it can finally happen. The aviation mogul's very first Virgin Hotel opened yesterday in Chicago and shocker, it's pretty darn amazing. Looking less like a hotel and more like the super cool home of Christian Grey, it's everything we've come to expect from Branson—meaning it fills us with a joy generally reserved for Charlie Bucket as he enters the chocolate factory for the first time.
“It’s been a long held dream to start beautiful, comfortable, fun hotels for guests and give them what they want and need while being gentle on their wallets,” says Branson. “I’m tremendously proud of the brilliant Virgin Hotels team, and I look forward to hosting our fans and spending more time in Chicago.”
Found in the historic Old Dearborn Bank Building at 203 N. Wabash Ave., the 26-story Art Deco hotel was restored from a historical 1920's bank and took two years to complete. There are original fixtures throughout, like the "oak Cigar Bar that serves as the hotel’s front desk, ornate brass elevator doors, and the original mail slot and chute serving all floors." Vintage touches are paired with cutting-edge technology, like the hotel's Lucy app, which is your own personal concierge. She performs as your room service liaison, your bell hop, thermostat, and even controls your TV.
Of the 250 rooms, 40 are pet-friendly, 40 are suites, and two are penthouses. Each one has at least two spaces separated by sliding doors, complete with a peephole (which seems odd, but it's Branson so we'll go with it). The dressing rooms include a full vanity, make-up desk, mirror, extra large shower with a bench, and his and hers closets. The lounge areas feature a "red SMEG mini-fridge, LG Smart TV, custom designed table that swivels and a Poltrona Frau task chair."
There are a lot of neat public spaces, like The Commons, which is a place guests can eat, drink, mingle, and work. With a private members club vibe, the two-story space is open to locals as well and features the original bank floor and coffered plastered ceiling. Plus, The Commons has a menu crafted by Chef Rick Gresh and is full of dishes like Stuffed Potato Tots, Lobster Flatbread, and Eye of the Ribeye (which showcases the chef's "black truffle tattoo technique"). Aside from The Commons, the Virgin Hotel also has four other dining options, including a 23-hour (does Branson have a favorite hour of the day, naturally making it exempt?) All-American diner and a rooftop bar and lounge.
The hotel promises that there are no hidden fees or surcharges and they won't charge you for anything silly like checking in early, checking out late, room service, or Wi-Fi. All of the aforementioned should be common practice for all luxury hotels, but we're sometimes surprised at what isn't included at other establishments. Branson plans on opening a second spot in Nashville in summer 2016, and a third in New York City in fall 2017. He also promises that by the end of next year he will have announced two additional locations. Overall, Virgin wants 20 hotels by 2025 and we can't wait to stay in each and every one.