14 Chicago Bars Where You Can Dance
Where to dance when you don't want to go to the club.
Dancing can make you feel so free, whether you use it as a form of interpretive art, or you just like to have too many drinks and show the world how uncoordinated you really are. Either way, dancing is fun, and you should get out there and do it on a casual Friday in a place that’s not a club.
These are bars where you can dance. Some of them are almost clubs, but even if you have to pay a small cover you won’t have to deal with the shame of being turned away. But that’s obviously not a problem you ever have. Get out there and let your best sprinkler move fly.
Missy Elliot once said, "If you a fly gal, get your nails done, get a pedicure, get your hair did." And if she knew you could do that at a bar, we’re pretty sure she’d be all in. So go to Beauty Bar, where you can get your nails done in front, literally, grab a drink, and hit the dance floor in the back room. It gets crowded on the weekend but that’s part of the fun.
photo credit: The Whistler
The Whistler considers itself a bar, gallery, record label, and music venue that hosts live music and DJ's all week. And while it sounds like they're full of themselves, we can't really argue with the self-assessment. The Whistler is easy to miss from the outside, so keep an eye out for the place that looks like a closed art gallery. We also suggest checking their event calendar before heading over, because if you're expecting smooth jazz and walk into a punk rock scene, your night make take an unexpected turn. Then again, that might be exactly what you need.
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Sure, you could hang downstairs at Kerryman, where you'll find pretty typical Irish bar in River North setup. Or you can head to the upstairs bar where it seems like there’s always an impromptu dance party breaking out. Kerryman isn’t a dance club by any means, but that’s never stopped anyone here.
photo credit: Sandy Noto
Live music culture is alive and well, and there are a couple places you can always catch a good show. Kingston Mines is one of them, and it’s a great place to dance. There’s live music every day starting in the evening until they close at 4am (5am on Saturday), and it only costs $12 to get in the door. But that’s a bargain, and well worth the cost.
Danny's Tavern is permanently closed
Danny’s Tavern is basically a house party, and house parties are the best kind of parties. The building is literally an old house that sits on an otherwise quiet and residential Bucktown street. But there’s usually a live DJ playing different kinds of music during the week, which really dictates the type of dancing going on here. Hey mom and dad - we’ll be out late tonight.
Where else can you play a bunch of skee ball and then dance your face off other than Slippery Slope? Nowhere that we know of. The Logan Square bars is a favorite when we’re looking to really get out and have some fun, and judging by the lines there are a lot of other people who feel the same way.
You pulled up to Slippery Slope but the line is too damn long and you don’t want to wait. The veteran move is to walk across the street and peer into the side alley and see if the line at East Room is any better. Odds are probably not, but that’s only because the scene here is just as fun. It’s a grungy but still cool scene inside, and the name of the game is cheap beer, liquor, and a large open space for everyone to dance.
We’re not exactly great dancers by any stretch of the imagination. But we’re the best dancers around when alcohol is involved, and you probably are too. Our dance moves get even better if there’s a sing-along, which is why we like to break it down in the basement of the Hanggee-Uppe every now and then. The classic ‘80s and ‘90s tunes coupled with too much booze and a sweaty dance floor is a guaranteed good time. There’s even a small stage where you can really show off.
The best way to update an old neighborhood bar is to keep it basically the same, but add a little flair to attract new crowds. And that’s why we’re talking about Bar Deville in West Town. The front part is a revamped version of an old dive and the middle room has a pool table, but you want to be in the back room on the weekends. The cash-only spot is full of velvet chairs and couches, a small bar serving basic drinks, and plenty of music in a usually cramped but fun space.
Henry’s is a River North bar that’s won us over, mostly because of their basement bar called The Rec Room. It feels like Hugh Hefner’s modern library with a few tables and just big enough of a dance area to make it work. It’s a great spot to drink and dance in River North if you’ve outgrown the days of Social Twenty-Five across the street.
Beaumont is dark, sweaty, sticky, gross, and has a young Lincoln Park crowd. So it’s essentially a college frat party, which means it’s best if you’re under the age of 26, or at least look young enough to fit in. Remember when you first learned how to freak dance? That’s what’s going on here, except for there aren’t any adults awkwardly watching you from the corner of the room.
InnJoy is like a graduated version of Beaumont. If you’re too old and sophisticated to be partying it up at a college scene in Lincoln Park but you kind of wish you could, InnJoy could be the place for you. Every Friday and Saturday night is ‘80s and ‘90s music, so you know it will be a good time. Do you believe in life after love? We do.
Empty Bottle is known as a West Town music venue, but you’ll feel like you’re at a dive bar that happens to have a stage for bands in the back. You’ll mainly get a heavy dose of punk rock, but on any given night you might catch some jazz, metal, or country music. The Empty Bottle has as much character as any place we’ve ever been, which comes from the random array of decorations like a photo of Ice Cube hanging over the door, broken-off police car doors, and a wall plastered with toy baby heads. Creepy? Yes. But we always feel compelled to try and steal one of those heads off the wall.
Over the 20+ years it’s been open, Double Door has seen everyone from local bands to The Smashing Pumpkins to Kings of Leon to Chance The Rapper to even the damn Rolling Stones play there. It’s a cultural icon as far as live music goes, and you should always consider buying a ticket to whatever show is going on or hit the basement bar where a DJ will be spinning. Is Double Door maybe more of a live music hall and club than an actual bar? We say it’s a funky in-between, and there’s never a bad time to go.