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SNEAK PEEK at M Lounge

Tarniece Miller has always dug the vibe at M Lounge, the South Loop jazz club now celebrating its 13th anniversary. It’s never been your typical club scene. No overly aggressive suitors. It’s a spot where you can slink into a sofa and grab a cocktail and some conversation.

However, she’s picked up so much more than crafted drinks and complimentary live music from the South Loop martini lounge. It’s where she and another regular named Jon struck up a conversation, exchanged numbers in June 2008, went out together a week later, then tied the knot in February 2010.

“I think the universe was perfectly aligned for me to meet him,” said Miller. It’s not an uncommon story heard at M Lounge— some call it a community — since its January 2006 opening. More than a dozen such unions have been fostered in the living room-type setting at 1520 S. Wabash. That legacy of love and life connections is a particular point of pride for husband-and-wife team MaryAnn and Reginald Marsh, its African-American owners who have built both a successful business franchise and a successful marriage of nearly 20 years.

“You would not think that you would meet the love of your life at a bar, but M Lounge had created an atmosphere where a lot of single women feel safe and comfortable coming in,” MaryAnn said. “The sort of comfortable atmosphere lends itself to meeting people,” she said, noting it was voted as the best place for a first date on Yelp. So help celebrate their 13th anniversary on Valentine's Day this February to find love in a drink and great conversation. MaryAnn is also the sister of award-winning journalist Maudlyne Ihejirika.

Reginald, a former television news producer and government relations professional, had long wanted to open such a bar. MaryAnn, a real estate broker, was 100-percent behind the dream, he said. They figured the South Loop, with its scarcity of nightlife, was prime for the venture. “We wanted a space that was nice and comfortable for people and kind of reminded you of a living room,” Reginald Marsh said. “Because of that, we still have regulars who always feel at home.”

The intimate martini lounge has over the years become synonymous with hot, live jazz; cool, innovative cocktails; warm customer service; and a client base as immensely loyal as the “Cheers” bar of old. It has been the Chicago home base of such renowned jazz greats as the late pianist/composer Ghalib Ghallab, and saxophonist Ray Silkman.

About 1,800 patrons come through the doors monthly, who might find themselves doing some celebrity sighting. Angela Bassett, Andre Royo, Jussie Smollettand other Empire cast members; and players from the Chicago Bears and Chicago Sky have been on the scene. Area client “regulars” are so loyal that quite unintentionally, the South Loop oasis has spawned a sub-community of couples who have met their match at M Lounge — some married with children.

Its owners consider it a badge of honor to have been responsible for over a dozen weddings — couples who have become family, and will always consider M Loungetheir Cupid’s lair. “It’s the intimacy of the lounge and the quality of people that we attract — people of like mind; people on the mature side — that make us successful,” Reginald said.

Employees, there are even comfortable vouching for regulars. “When you meet someone there, it’s sort of like meeting a friend of a friend. A customer can ask ‘What do you know about that guy?’ I’m able to say, ‘He’s a good guy,’ because I’ve been seeing him in the bar and talking to him. We get to know our customers,’ MaryAnn said. “It’s kind of like being at a cocktail party with a bunch of friends.” - Cheryl V. Jackson / Freelance Reporter



When going out for a night on the town, there’s so many different bars, lounges, and restaurants to choose from all over Chicago, but there’s somewhere special in the South Loop. M Lounge– located on 1520 S. Wabash–is one spot you can hit to receive warm customer service, hear live jazz music, and find modern drinks topped with the atmosphere of love.

M Lounge, which opened in January 2006, recently celebrated its 13th anniversary. And what makes it even more special, the South Loop jazz club is owned and operated by Reginald and MaryAnn Marsh, an African-American couple who in essence live and work together, as they’ve built both a successful business franchise and a successful marriage. Ironically the way they met is how many of their customers fell in love at their lounge–meeting by fate and striking up a conversation.

Mrs. Marsh says their meeting was like a romantic comedy movie. In 1995, they were both at an NABJ (National Association of Black Journalist) convention in Philadelphia. At that time, MaryAnn lived in Chicago and Reginald lived in Cleveland, Ohio.

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chicago at a glance

Settle in children it’s time for a LOVE story in honor of Valentine’s Day! The back drop to this story is a Chicago jazz club that is owned and operated by a couple married for 23 years! Reginald and MaryAnn Marsh opened M Lounge in the south loop neighborhood back in 2006.

I myself have been to M Lounge many times and have several stories of my own to share. I remember heading to M Lounge to gossip with my girlfriends over a cocktail, celebrating birthday parties, and cuddling over a late night date. The intimate lounge located at 1520 S. Wabash has over the years become synonymous with hot, live jazz; cool innovative cocktails; awesome customer service, and a very loyal fan base. It’s like the “Cheers” bar except on the south side of Chicago. Besides regulars the lounge is also known for attracting celebrity clientele like Angela Basset, Jussie Smollett, Andre Royo, and other cast members of the Empire TV show during filming. Chicago media personalities, members of the Chicago Bears, and Chicago Sky also stop by after games.