Preservation in Geneva adds Front Lounge for ‘intimate, artistic’ gatherings

Preservation in Geneva recently morphed its original dining room into the Front Lounge, reducing the number of seats and reconfiguring the space.

Preservation is known for being home to an eclectic array of gathering places for dining, drinks and music, both indoors and under the stars.

The Front Lounge is the latest brainchild of owner Lawrence Colburn of St. Charles, a visual artist, sommelier and restaurateur.

“I wanted to create a space very specifically for an intimate, artistic, creative experience,” Colburn said.

It’s designed for small groups to gather where the mood is ripe for interaction in a conversation-friendly environment.

Preservation off South Third Street in downtown Geneva has a newly redesigned space called the Front Lounge. Courtesy of Preservation

Among the conversation starters are rotating pieces from Colburn’s personal art collection displayed on the building’s exposed brick walls. Another is music. Front Lounge patrons can request their favorite jazz artists be spun on the newly added turntable.

Preservation’s full menu is offered in the Front Lounge, which seats about 20.

“The lounge is (something) we’re really excited about right now — a one-of-a-kind, artistic, creative experience in an intimate setting — a darker, quieter, loungy, sexy space,” Colburn said, adding the space also is available for private parties.

Meanwhile, live music provides entertainment six days a week at the outdoor bar on the year-round, heated patio.

Arranging Preservation’s entertainment is Tess Bondavalli, who is in charge of music and marketing, and has been booking the live acts for more than a decade.

“I try to get musicians who do a mix of their own music and covers of music that inspires them,” Bondavalli said in an email. “I tell them not to try to predict what people want to hear, but to play what makes them unique.”

She says she is open to almost any genre.

“We do some country on Sundays, a little bit of jazz,” Bondavalli said. “I have several Chicago blues guys out; I’m afraid that they’re going to go extinct. I try to mix up tried-and-true locals, young up-and-comers, Chicago musicians and even musicians traveling through.”

This spring, the lineup added an open mic at 6 p.m. Mondays, and Trivia Under the Stars at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays, she said.

Just steps from the Geneva train station, the restaurant originally christened Preservation Bread & Wine launched 14 years ago as a place where Colburn could share his passion for pairing wine with food, Bondavalli said.

Since then, a heated, four-seasons room was added, and later the 30-seat outdoor bar and an expansive heated patio at the back of the building, accessible down the alley bordering Colburn’s other enterprise, Atlas Chicken. The takeout “chicken shack” has added a dine-in Bartlett location, featuring events.

In addition to capitalizing on Colburn’s sommelier expertise, Preservation is known for handcrafted cocktails elevated by homemade ingredients, as well as craft beer and mocktails.

Creative cuisine, craft cocktails, brews, mocktails and a curated wine list greet patrons stepping into Preservation's newly launched Front Lounge. Courtesy of Preservation

The kitchen produces a shared plate experience with menu items such as prawn and steak skewers, whipped lemon ricotta with fresh asparagus on apple slices, cheese plates, charcuterie, crispy duck spinach salad, wild mushroom tart, tacos, sandwiches and flatbread pizzas. The brioche and flatbread dough are housemade. Soups include a classic French onion and tomato bacon, with several entrees served after 5 p.m., such as pan-seared halibut.

With its art and vinyl underpinnings, the fresh vibe at Front Lounge adds the latest element to Preservation’s attractions.

“You’re allowing for it to take on its own life,” Colburn said, observing how people interact with the Front Lounge in its new incarnation. “We love to be outside with the big party … (yet it’s) so nice to come inside and kind of chill.”

If you go:

• What: Front Lounge at Preservation

• Where: 513 S. Third St., Geneva

• When: Preservation and Atlas Chicken open at 11 a.m. seven days a week

• Information:

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