Apr 26, 2023 - Things to Do

Test Drive: River North club Joy District transforms into Studio 54

Photo of two people posing on the dance floor at a club.

Justin and Monica destroy the dance floor at Joy District's Studio 54 pop-up party. Photo courtesy of a fellow dancer

River North nightclub Joy District is celebrating its 10th anniversary on Hubbard Street by transforming its second floor into a replica of the fabled Studio 54.

Context: Studio 54 is arguably the most famous nightclub in American history, known for its extravagant decor, celebrity clientele, disco culture and general excess.

What's happening: We checked out the first weekend at the club as part of our ongoing Test Drive reviews of Chicago life experiences.

  • We wanted to see if Joy District got it right and whether we're still cool enough to hang at the club:
GIF of a man dancing on dance floor at a club.
Justin shows off his patented dance moves while the security guard judges him. GIF: Monica Eng/Axios

Justin's test drive: Admittedly, I went in with very high expectations (would we see Bianca Jagger on a horse?), but I was pleasantly surprised by the club's attention to detail on the decor.

  • It would be very easy to just put out a disco ball and play "Disco Inferno," but their black-and-silver window dressings, plus the light-up dance floor, showed effort in emulating the infamous NYC club.
  • While I may have overdressed with my sport coat and wingtips, I just cosplayed as a Wall Street stockbroker who wandered Uptown.
GIF of people dancing in a nightclub.
Monica shows off her "robot" at the disco. GIF: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

Monica's test drive: I dug the free disco ball necklaces and '70s outfits, but I'd darken the dance floor earlier in the night. This will help young people feel less shy about busting out awesome robot moves like yours truly.

  • One improvement from the original Studio 54: No obvious piles of cocaine anywhere.

What's next: The club will transform again from April 27-29 and one final time on May 4.


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