Tonight, Downtown Champaign’s Anthem opens in the former Soma space. The new bar’s owner says, “Anthem is an inclusive, high-end cocktail lounge.” Grand opening events for the LGBTQ+ friendly space are planned for both nights this weekend: Friday, November 10th and Saturday, November 11th. With special guest hosts Akasha from St. Louis on Friday night and Amaya Sexton from Dayton, Ohio on Saturday, the new cocktail lounge will also have DJs open the dance floor at 10 p.m. DJ Tim Williams will be there tonight and DJ Adiojawn on Saturday. To enter, patrons must be 19 years or older.

I got to have a little look inside the new cocktail lounge yesterday, so here’s a sneak peek at Anthem.

The view upon entering the new cocktail lounge Anthem in Downtown Champaign.
Alyssa Buckley

Inside Anthem, there’s a long bar with swanky barstools across from golden side tables and new leatherette banquettes.

Inside Anthem in Champaign, there is a lit bar with white barstools.
Alyssa Buckley

The cocktail lounge serves beer and wine plus signature cocktails and mocktails.

Michael Maggi mixes a drink from the menu he made.
Alyssa Buckley

Developed by Michael Maggi, the drink menu features beverages inspired by Alice in Wonderland. In addition to Alice, Mad Hatter, and White Rabbit cocktails, Anthem serves a zero-proof gin drink named Off With Her Head and Jell-O shots called Eat Me.

Two drinks at Anthem cocktail lounge.
Alyssa Buckley

At yesterday’s sneak peek, Anthem made a Cheshire cat cocktail and a painted rose mocktail. The Cheshire cat cocktail was made with Meukow cognac, Monkey Shoulder scotch, cherry liqueur, sweet vermouth, and housemade cinnamon syrup, garnished rosemary. It was delicious. I loved how wonderfully prominent the scotch and warm cognac flavors were, and the subtle cinnamon sweetness tasted great. The painted rose mocktail had two distinct layers upon serving: bright red berry shrub simple syrup and clear club soda. Stirring the drink painted the cocktail red, so to speak, which was fun.

Menu of house wine, beer, and signature cocktails at Anthem.
Alyssa Buckley

The bar makes the drinks’ syrups in-house (sage, ginger, cinnamon, jalapeño, and berry shrub syrups) and the burnt peach puree for the bar’s Curiouser cocktail, a take on an old-fashioned cocktail. Right now, the drinks have names with Alice in Wonderland references, but Anthem plans to rotate the menu after a few months.

Anthem's menu of signature cocktails and mocktails.
Alyssa Buckley

Besides the two non-alcoholic drinks, there are zero-proof mocktails made with liquor replacements that give a little booze flavor without alcohol content.

A tall red drink with ice and a white straw is on a gold table at Anthem.
Alyssa Buckley

Managed by CRS Hospitality Group, the bar’s hours may vary through the end of the year due to previously scheduled private events, so keep an eye on the bar’s Facebook page.

A brick room with red lighting that has a view of the front lounge.
Alyssa Buckley

Beyond the front lounge is a big room with an open floor, two more bars, and four disco balls hanging from the ceiling.

From the dance floor at Anthem, the view above is disco balls and lights.
Alyssa Buckley

These two bars serve more simple drinks than the lounge (think margarita, rum-and-Coke, or other two to three component drinks) in plastic cups because no glass will be allowed in the back room.

Without a doubt, it’s awesome for something like this open in C-U. At this time, the new establishment will be open five nights a week starting at 4 p.m. On Thursday through Sunday each week, there will be a house DJ from 10 p.m. until close.

A menu for Anthem with a blurred background.
Alyssa Buckley

Anthem’s grand opening begins tonight at 4 p.m. in the cocktail lounge with host Akasha arriving at 8 p.m. and dance floor opening at 10 p.m. with DJ Tim Williams. Of course, the opening events will continue on Saturday night as well with host Amaya Sexton and DJ Adiojawn. There’s a cover at the door after 10 p.m. all weekend long.

320 N Neil St
W 4 to 10 p.m.
Th-Su 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.