Fisting and muffins

A new B&B aims to indulge guests' wildest fantasies.
NAUGHTY AND NICE Both the Leather (above) and Sports rooms tempt visitors.
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At the new Dana Hotel and Spa in downtown Chicago, guests can revel in luxury amenities like 300-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, a cocktail with a view at Vertigo Sky Lounge and Italian rain-shower fixtures. At Rogers Park’s recently opened Ashland Arms Guest House (6410 N Clark St, 312-498-9979; $79–$249), amenities also abound. Visitors can enjoy a sling in their room (thread count not applicable), a cocktail with a (literal) rear view in the Hole and a scrub down in the gang shower.

Ashland Arms, which opened during International Mr. Leather weekend in May but remains a work-in-progress, is the brainchild of Jackhammer owners Jim Keup, and his partner, Joe, and Mephisto Leathers’ Eric Kugelman and Michael Syrjanen (who co-own Mephisto with in-house tailor Paul C). Occupying two second-floor apartments above Jackhammer and Mephisto Leathers, the five-room bed and breakfast, according to its website, offers “gracious hospitality in an environment of amazing fun,” one where fantasies—for gay or straight guests—can be realized.

To that end, each guest room boasts a theme: Leather, Rubber, Sports, Dreams and Bunk. While the Leather Room’s moniker speaks for itself (a king-sized bed with a leather bedspread, along with a chain-link sling), the seemingly innocuous Dreams Room, a nod to Kugelman’s days working as a manager for Disney, will one day get its own sling outfitted with Mickey ears. The Sports Room will also eventually sport a sling, one that’s held up by baseball bats, while the Bunk Room happily lodges three (wink, wink). All five rooms connect to the kitchen and breakfast room, where guests can meet and greet over continental breakfast and freshly baked muffins, Syrjanen’s specialty. Ninety years before the building became an adult, urban leather-fetish guesthouse, it served as a male-only boardinghouse for North Side factory workers. After the Depression, the building fell upon hard times, turning into a flophouse and, later, an art studio and classroom. Gay bars have been a part of the building for about 30 years. When Keup, a longtime Far North Side resident, purchased Jackhammer in 2000, it was a gay dive called Numbers. “I’d always had this dream about owning a neighborhood bar,” Keup says. In 2004, “the two old brothers who owned [Ashland Arms] decided they wanted to sell, so we took the opportunity to purchase the building and transform the whole block.”

Keup had become friends with Kugelman and Syrjanen, who were looking to expand Mephisto Leathers, their retail store in Boystown. Together the group settled upon the idea of adding Mephisto to the Rogers Park building, renovating Jackhammer, opening a B&B and creating a fetish complex (separately owned nightclub Touché happens to be next door). Keup did away with Jackhammer’s old construction theme; modernized the dance floor, bar and bathrooms; and transformed the basement into a fetish space called the Hole. The Hole accepts people of all genders and sexual orientations, Keup says, provided they stick to its dress code (which may be underwear only, for example, depending on the night).

Conveniently, Mephisto Leathers, which makes in-house leather fetish gear and sells other adult toys and novelties, connects to Jackhammer and stays open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays. Late-night Jackhammer patrons can pop over to grab an as-needed jockstrap or cock ring. “I love having the exit of the amusement park, meaning Jackhammer, go through our store,” Kugelman says. “That was Walt Disney’s concept. You gotta go through the gift shop.”

As gay men seek out Internet hookups and meet in mixed venues, the Ashland Arms proprietors hope their North Side complex will reposition fetish for the next generation. “What we wanted to do was be different from the old school,” Keup says. “The old school is kind of dying. We want to create an environment to welcome younger people to explore the fetish community.” It seems to be working: On weekend nights, Far North Side residents and fetish-curious Boystowners of varying ages and preferences have been packing Jackhammer and Touché. Likewise, Ashland Arms is steadily gaining buzz among a diverse, international clientele. “We get to meet people from all over the world,” Syrjanen says. “We’ve invited [guests] into our home down the hall to have breakfast with us.”

For more information, visit ashlandarms.com and jackhammer-chicago.com.

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