“It feels like it took 10 years,” said Jun Ma, one of the four owners of A Plus VIP Lounge, a new night club located in downtown Urbana.
It all began when four friends, University of Illinois classmates, decided that upon graduation they wanted to start a business together. Jun Ma, Helen Zhang, Di Yu and Yibin Zhang began having daily meetings to make their plans a reality for their near future.
“We were friends who meet at U of I. We decided that after we graduated we wanted to do something around this area and we found out that a lot of people required a quality place to hang so we came up with this,” said co-owner Helen Zhang.
With all four friends pushing forward the preliminary stages began while they were still U of I students, which was anything but easy. On Friday, February 14th, A Plus VIP Lounge had its official grand opening.
Zhang said of the current schedule:
Right now we are just doing late night. It is a night club but later we are going to expand our opening hours to an afternoon shift. When working people are finished at work they can come here and grab a drink, stuff like that. We were thinking about making the afternoon more like a jazz music bar, something slow, something classic, and quality.
The vibe of A Plus VIP Lounge is premium night club, a place where local professionals and students alike can come together for a night out. The location is at 214 W. Main Street, which should be familiar to locals, as it is located at the former venue of the bar called The Office. In its absence, there was a void that needed to be filled.
“The Office attracted a lot of people and this place was a landmark and we thought people will definitely come out [to the club] if we make it nice,” said Ma.
When choosing a location, the City of Urbana also factored into the decision making process, as Ma stated, “Urbana has more opportunity for development. It is not as developed compared to Champaign."
“You can see that there are night clubs and bars everywhere in Champaign, Blind Pig, Radio Maria, Soma, and Highdive. You can’t find any place like this in downtown Urbana. This is the first reason why we choose Urbana,” said Zhang.
She adds, “There is a bus stop right over there (Race & Main) and for Urbana people this is downtown and this is walking distance. So this is kind of the perfect location for our target market.”
A Plus VIP Lounge draws inspiration from Asian culture. This can be seen primarily in the menu. “Asian inspired means we have some Asian alcohol and Asian cocktails. The designing of this place is a little different than what people are used to and that’s what we mean by Asian-inspired,” said Ma.
“We like to blend those things. In Korean and Chinese culture, we have experienced those things but we want to introduce this experience to different groups too. It’s based on Asian culture but we expanded it,” said Zhang.
The menu will also include traditional bar food with future plans for more dishes to be added to the menu. For now their cocktails which Zhang describes as “fabulous” are the pride and joy. “Our cocktails are one of a kind — no one in town has them,” said Ma.
The venue includes a full bar, a dancefloor, and a VIP section. “Our price is going to be a little bit higher than what you might experience in downtown Champaign,” said Zhang.
Quality and attention to detail have become a mantra for the owners. Everything from the staff to the decorations has been carefully chosen to contribute to the high end aesthetic including the handmade chairs that are in the clubs VIP section. The paintings that can be seen on the walls were created specifically for A Plus VIP Lounge. Everything has its place and nothing is arbitrarily thrown in the mix.
“We got a Chicago DJ, professional pole dancers, waitresses... most bars don’t have that. That is the difference between here and all of the other bars in town. We provide the best food,” said Ma, and added “Our bartender and chef are very professional they both have over 10 years of experience in the field. They know exactly what to do and how to treat everybody.”
In preparation for the grand opening, the club had a soft open which was announced on the club's Facebook page, but did not have any other promotion.
“There were a reasonable number of people here and out waitresses did very well and were able to handle the crowd well. For it to be our first business it went very well,” said Ma.
The night of A Plus VIP Lounge’s grand opening coincided with Valentine’s Day, a day where many singles were out on the town. The owners are mainly focused on the launch but promotion had the opening billed as a special Valentine’s Day event.
They plan to celebrate most of the major holidays. St. Patrick’s Day is next on the agenda, and soon they hope to throw different events every week.