Chicago Style

Chicago Style

Steps away from an iconic ballpark, a lighting control system saves the day for a restaurant filled with custom fixtures

By Katie Nale

Directly across from Chicago’s Wrigley Field sits the Hotel Zachary. Named for Zachary Davis, the stadium’s architect, the boutique hotel offers Cubs fans a short walk to the stadium and quick access to a number of local restaurants, including BOKA Restaurant Group’s Dutch & Doc’s. Located on the same property as the hotel, the American-fare restaurant is an entity unto itself without a direct door to the hotel.

To emphasize the restaurant’s uniqueness while maintaining the spirit of the location, BOKA divided the two-story space by differentiating the atmospheres on the two floors. “The first floor is closer to a traditional Wrigleyville vibe, only upgraded to BOKA standards, and the top floor is more of a ‘BOKA-esque’ fine-dining experience,” says lighting designer John Cahill (Lightswitch, Chicago). “But it’s unlike your typical bar because it’s high-fashion, high-design from top to bottom,” adds fellow designer Avraham Mor.

To connect the differing styles of the two levels, Cahill and Mor worked with interior designer AvroKO to specify a multitude of custom fixtures throughout the 11,200-sq ft location, a decision that gave the designers a slight case of déjà vu. Having worked on seven projects for BOKA before taking on the 11 month task of lighting Dutch & Doc’s (June 2017-May 2018), Cahill and Mor were familiar with the challenge of combining digital dimming with custom fixtures. An automated lighting control system gave the veterans a sense of stability throughout the project. “What’s great is you get that repeat kind of feel,” says Mor in reference to his work on other BOKA restaurants. “By having an automated lighting control system, it adds to that element because there’s one less thing that could be different.”

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Custom Design

On the restaurant’s first floor, taller ceilings and views of the adjacent field keep the clientele in a familiar sports-oriented atmosphere, while the second floor is set up as a more intimate dinning space with a large view of the Wrigley Field sign on the corner of Clark and Addison. Visually connecting the two floors are custom lights spread throughout the entire restaurant, each serving both a decorative and functional purpose. “We couldn’t just have a decorative fixture for decorative fixture’s sake, we really needed to make sure that if we had a decorative fixture, that it was going to do something more than just look pretty,” says Mor.

Products by Q-Tran light the traditional bar on the first floor with a mix of style and practicality. A custom fixture follows the curve of the bar while decorative plates emit light with a sense of elegance. Linear LEDs (Luminii) with metal bent around them light high-top areas while USAI cylinders and Ketra downlights and track heads work in conjunction with each other throughout both floors. “One of the reasons we use Ketra is because we can really fine-tune the color temperature and it gives us a lot of dimming capabilities,” says Mor, who lit the majority of the space at 2700K with a CRI of 90. With over 50 zones of control, comprised of a combination of DALI, DMX, Forward Phase, Reverse Phase and one 0-10-V zone, wall-box dimmers would not have allowed for such complete control over the dimming of the entire restaurant.

Control Issues

Unsurprisingly to the designers, using an automated control system to light the restaurant and its custom fixtures was not an entirely straightforward process. “Our standard is to use 99% LED technology and when we do that we use only digital dimming technologies, either DALI or DMX,” says Mor. “We had challenges with the custom fixture manufacturer understanding those technologies.” The drivers supplied with the custom pieces resulted in flickering light issues, and the speed of the project schedule meant that some of the decorative fixtures were chosen during construction, leaving little time to work out any kinks. The tight timeframe clashed not only with the intricate programming of the fixtures, but also with the installation process. “One of my favorite stories from this job is that we showed up one day, looked up and noticed the ceiling was white. The interior designers thought the ceiling was too dark and had the color changed from black to white,” recalls Mor. “The light fixtures were just about to leave the factory and we were lucky enough to get ahold of the manufacturer and get them to repaint all of the fixtures white. This was about two weeks before opening.”

Noting that electricians and lighting professionals are often the last people out of a space, Mor recalls the time crunch that comes with commissioning a space’s control system when it is based on digital controls. “It is a continuous challenge to make time in the schedule to set levels and program the lighting system. Many times we are trying to program the system while lights are still being installed a few days before opening.” By opening day, Mor and Cahill had found success using a control system by Crestron. “The owner has gotten used to the system we designed for him to be able to walk around the restaurant with an iPad to adjust and set lighting levels. It is really incredible, he never wants to go back to the days of banks of wall-box dimmers,” says Mor.

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Katie Nale

Katie Nale

Katie Nale is assistant editor for... More info »