Decks boon to card sharks and barflies alike

By WilliamPrentiss

A deck of cards can be used for many games, but a new deck is adding another one to play: barhopping.

The new Drink Deck is a complete 52-card deck that boasts a $10 discount for a designated Chicago bar on every card. Each card has a perforated corner that can be torn off and used at the establishment named on the card. The deck is currently on sale on the company’s Web site and other retail locations in the Chicago area, all of which are listed at TheDrinkDeck.com. The deck sells for $30 dollars, but the actual value of the cards come to $520. The concept behind the drink deck isn’t completely original. Other companies have put gift certificates in 52-card packs, but the Drink Deck is one of the few that can actually be used as playing cards.

“I’m a card player, euchre specifically,” said Will Glass, Drink Deck founder. “My wife and I were in a euchre league and this idea came about. I was like, ‘This is perfect.’”

Glass said his deck is a derivation from others covering the New York bar and restaurant scene. The company that makes them, City Shuffle, has three separate decks. Two are dining establishments while the other is for bars in Manhattan. Chicago also has its own dining deck called A La Card, which donates a dollar from every deck sold to the nonprofit group Common Threads. Glass said his is different from the others because they never lose their value.

“It has a shelf life,” Glass said. “Those will expire after a year, so if you try to buy a deck of any of those cards in November, it would probably be a value of five bucks, but mine is $30 throughout because it doesn’t expire.”

Of the bars in the deck, Glass said his favorite is either Simone’s, 960 W. 18th St. in Pilsen, or The Bluebird, 1749 N. Damen Ave. in Wicker Park, but he wanted to represent a variety of neighborhoods and types in his deck.

“That’s what I like about it,” Glass said. “It’s 12 different genres of bars, it’s 15 neighborhoods across the city. For someone like myself who’s an on-the-go type of person, it’s great. We can be in any different area, pick a card out of there and find something that’s a pretty good spot to hang out at for a while.”

Simone’s opened in February and has seen its business steadily growing since. Co-owner Desiree Grant said she thinks the gift certificate will bring more people into her bar, but she hasn’t seen someone use the card yet. Glass said the company has sold 200 decks so far and he’s happy with how well they’re performing.

Natasha Liberman, A la Card co-founder, said her company’s goal is partly to support chef-driven restaurants in Chicago. Both A La Card and Drink Deck don’t charge the restaurants or bars to participate.

“We definitely want them to dine out at the independently-owned restaurants for sure,” Liberman said. “The more corporate chain restaurants have their own money to do their own promotions. I found that these restaurants don’t have the big bucks to go out and do these promotions.”

Not charging the restaurants also helped make A La Card a better deck because it’s a good deal for smaller, quality restaurants.

“For them, it’s not paid advertising,” Liberman said. “It’s paid marketing only when it works. We did that, so we could have the caliber and quality of the list.”

Liberman said she made a conscious effort to give a variety of price ranges, neighborhoods and types of food. Christmas is the company’s busy season and Liberman said that parents will frequently buy the deck for their kids who are living in the city.

“Who wants to fumble through a huge book?” Liberman said. “It’s right there. If you don’t know where to go for dinner, you can randomly pick a card.”

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