The operators of Lounge 51 believed a lounge-style wine/cocktail/craft beer could exist in downtown Elgin, despite some critics suggesting it was a bad idea.

“Why would you open a nice, modern lounge in downtown Elgin? Because no one has ever done it yet,” said Kevin Echevarria, CEO of the Dream Hub and owner of the Dream Hall from where the lounge is located.

This month, that belief came to fruition when Lounge 51 opened on the mezzanine floor of the Dream Hall on South Grove Avenue. The owners and operators of the bar believe its large selection of craft alcoholic drinks, its locally-grown or locally-brewed push, and its vintage lounge vibe help set it apart, providing a setting seen in Chicago and in some other suburbs but not in Elgin. “We just want to bring what everybody sees in Naperville, in St. Charles, we want to bring that vibe here,” said Josue Gomez, the lounge operations manager. “Elgin is not a second-rate city, we can bring that atmosphere here.”

Lounge 51 is the third vendor to open inside the Dream Hall, the food and gathering hall and test kitchen that opened in the spring of 2018. Cafe Revive operates on the main floor, while the Legit Dogs and Ice restaurant is housed on the lower level.

Echevarria, who co-owns Lounge 51, said the lounge is a team effort with each team member devoted to a certain aspect of its operations. Gomez is a co-owner of Lounge 51 as well as its operations manager. Brit Steffensen runs the kitchen as lead chef. Jeff Turner, who teamed up with Echevarria to create Dream Foods, oversees the food services. Aaron Colon, meanwhile, is the Lounge 51 bar manager. “We found ourselves in a position to put together a nice beverage program and a nice food program,” Echevarria said.

The food menu features smaller, shareable items like sliders, food boards, flatbreads, and others, but Steffensen said items may come and go depending on customer reception. Turner said they haven’t ruled out entrees and larger meals.

The alcoholic options, meanwhile, include up to a dozen craft beers on tap, more than 40 bottles and cans of beer to choose from, and a large selection of wines and cocktails — a total count of 85 alcoholic options, according to the current menu. Colon said all but a few of the beer selections are from craft breweries in Illinois.

“We wanted to showcase local product,” Gomez said. The cocktail menu is entirely the creation of Colon. Each cocktail features spirits and ingredients he chose personally after experimenting with what works and what doesn’t.

Colon’s specialty cocktail? The 51, a cocktail Colon said has confounded customers already. The menu doesn’t list what is in it — and at this point, Colon won’t say. “No one’s guessed correctly yet,” he said. “It’s those little details that elevate the experience,” Echevarria said. Colon left a bartender job at the Grand Victoria Casino to join the Lounge 51 team because he felt he could experiment more with drinks. While he heard congratulations from some, a majority of those he told were skeptical, he said. Could a lounge work in downtown Elgin?

“Everyone who doesn’t actually come down here thinks it’s chaos,” Colon said. “Go check it out, it’s a nice building, it’s a nice neighborhood. It might not have been x amount of years ago but take a look now. All that negativity actually made me want to come here even more.” The group said they were encouraged with the positive feedback they heard during a series of soft opening events prior to their June 1 grand opening, such as the menu, the decor, and the customer service. Echevarria described the venue as having a “mid-century modern feel” — vintage furniture, tables from the 1970s, newer pieces of furniture, vintage record player, a neutral-color paint scheme on the walls.

“This doesn’t exist out here,” Echevarria said. “There’s a lot of rustic in Elgin. You can go to certain restaurants and they kind of feel a little rustic; you can go to other venues and local bars that feel rustic. There’s no actual lounges that open up early.”



Sign-up for updates