It takes a lot of work to make a club great: Smart decor, attention to detail, well-poured drinks worth the price tag, enough hipsters to give it an edgy vibe and good music. But it also needs someone who can give it that extra spark. At Underground
, his name is Benjamin Newby.
On a nightly basis this UK-transplant keeps the club bumping, charming patrons who can't get enough of his accent. All the while, the manager and mixologist still makes time to pour lush cocktails, like the Secret Snowball, made with house-infused marshmallow vodka, Godiva liqueur, coconut milk and cream.
Newby moved to Chicago two summers ago when his wife accepted a position at the British School of Chicago. Once he became familiar with the city's clubs, he knew that it just made sense to get a job in the industry.
Back in the UK, Newby was part of the electronic music scene (often partying to Chicago house, no less) right after the crazy rave days and just before electronic music and superstar DJs blew up on UK radio. For those unfamiliar with nightlife culture, that means he knows a thing or two about proper party environments and glamorous clubs.
Now he works at Underground, helping make the club a success, especially on Thursdays, when he brings in acts like fashion-forward, New York-based DJ trio, The MisShapes, and UK hip-hop turntablist, DJ Yoda.
If I were to come to your neighborhood, where would you insist I visit?
Bin 36. I walk out of my door, walk into Bin 36 and learn about wine. I have a flight of chardonnay and remember why I liked chardonnay all those years ago. It expands my knowledge in the industry.
What's your favorite hidden gem in Chicago?
The Hideout. Simple. I've been there once but just to know it's there makes me feel better. Calling it unpretentious doesn't do it justice. Mind you, the music isn't really my thing, but just knowing it exists to cater to this young, artsy music crowd is great.
What are you listening to right now?
FabricLive.36 with James Murphy and Patrick Mahoney and also The Amazing Adventure of DJ Yoda.
What are you drinking right now?
There are two brands of Absinthe that are being sold in U.S. now. We'll probably do absinthe cocktails. It's like history in a bottle.
What's the best and worst thing about your job?
The worst things are not seeing my wife enough, because she works teacher hours, and badly dressed people. I love everything else.
What's the one thing we should know about you that we don't?
I'm a complete geek. I love gaming. I love my Wii, graphic novels, computers, all those sort of things.