Don't let the skull 'n crossbone logo of this old biker bar fool you: There are things entirely more ominous than death within. By simply entering, you've already added fuel to the flaming fetish fire. Whether clad in leather, metal, ink or not, Exit feeds on any and all innocence.
From its 1981 start in the (very tame) heart of Old Town, the bar spawned the city's longest running fetish night, Bondage-A-Go-Go, whipping and spanking its way into Chicago counter-culture fame. And now 10 years into its more appropriate home on the 1300 block of North Avenue, the sting of S&M is just a Thursday away.
Split into two levels, the first resembles a renegade war zone. A permanent motorcycle gauntlet lines the right side of the corridor, while machete ceiling fans circle above. It's not uncommon to catch a glimpse of porn on the televisions above the waitresses, that is, when there's not a pair of knee-high pleather boots tapping around your drink. Gothic mock-candlelight chandeliers flicker against barbwire and chained linked fences; various battle regalia command the fully stocked bar.
The second floor is the scene of truly deviant activity. Though Thursday is Exit's bread and butter, industrial DJs spin until 4 a.m. all week long (5 a.m. on Saturdays). When three scantly clothed dominatrixesses aren't reddening up the asses and backs of handcuffed submissives, the dance floor harbors a moshpit of sorts, where rhythmic limb flailing takes the spotlight.
Despite Exit's intensity, the staff and crowd remain down to Earth. All walks of Chicagoans are welcome, providing they keep an open mind. In fact, you're more likely to meet on-lookers following the white rabbit, so to speak, than "Joe Goth," pierced beyond recognition, gritting his teeth at you. And with less-than-$3 drink specials five nights a week, 365 days a year (the place doesn't close), it's one S&M experience that shouldn't be missed.
Centerstage Reviewer: Gavin Paul