In this day and age of endless self-promotion, blogs, and social media, where there are no shortages of “epic” biographies about some abstract notion of experience in the work place, Arman Razavi poses a real dilemma for any writer. How can one write about a man who has had a hands-on knowledge of almost every aspect of a particular industry? It is difficult to put Arman Razavi’s hospitality biography, which expands 3 decades, in a few short paragraphs and do him justice. It is quite impossible to discuss a topic without having him paint a historical portrait and anecdotal proof to go along with it. Simply put Arman is an encyclopedia.
Arman Razavi moved to the US and settled in Chicago in 1984 at the tender age of 18 to pursue higher education without his family and with only $100 in his pocket. Not eligible for student loan, he had to find a job and quickly. What took place next is an all too American story, during which time Arman went from working as a dishwasher and struggling to make ends meet to opening his first place within 5 years. Although this was a huge accomplishment, the experience left him unfulfilled and wanting more. By the time he was 27, Arman opened his second and most successful place called Mad Bar and within few years he went on to redefine the existing business model and create a new blueprint and genre for a generation of lounges to come.
Mad Bar was Arman’s homage to one of his favorite movies, Network. The famous line from the movie, “I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore,” was his inspiration for opening what could be the first gastropub in Chicago. Frustrated by an industry run poorly and shoddily, he was determined to put his ideas, amassed over the course of a decade while mostly working for others, to test. A self-made and a self-taught man with strong entrepreneurial tendencies, he had examined the prevailing business models of the time, which at that time were limited to a tavern, a restaurant or a nightclub. Arman was convinced he could meld and mold a new genre by taking the best from each model. The result was a resounding success. Mad Bar thrived 8 successful years and was one of the most talked about Chicago venues locally, nationally and internationally. It was credited by then Aldermen Ted Matlak and Terry Gabinski as instrumental in transferring Bucktown to the neighborhood it is today and Arman was applauded for his vision. He took an active role in the community by joining local organizations and contributing to the overall health and progress of Bucktown, while at the same time receiving his BA from Columbia College of Chicago.
A tireless soul, a self-marketer and always innovative with an eye for talent acquisition, PR, incorporation of technology and an advocate for in-house solutions to existing problems, Arman had created a legion of believers. Soon Chicago began to experience a renaissance of sorts. More venues following Mad Bar model begin to pop up and Arman’s phone began to ring with calls for help in various fields.
The idea for Midnight Oil Agency began to take shape in 1999, which was a collaborative effort of experts in various fields to address the growing demand for help, headed by Arman. Soon he added Music 101 to the mix, a promotional company dedicated to helping venues drive traffic through their doors through formative, innovative and inventive methods. The more Arman worked with other venues, the more he began to see patterns from observing the inner workings of other companies. This in turn allowed him to develop, refine and advance his ideas.
Companies large and small began to use his services. Music 101’s events rapidly gained prominence within both the national and international music communities. From South Beach to Paris to Naples, the reputation of Music 101 continued to grow and gained position. Music 101’s client list included Consulate General of France, French Film Festival, Columbia College of Chicago, Lakeview Chambers of Commerce, Wicker Park Chambers of Commerce, Around the Coyote Art Festival and many of Chicago’s top restaurants and high profile destinations. Although skillful and adept at marketing, Arman felt he was moving further away from his beloved field, which was hospitality. In 2009 Arman took on a job to help open theWit hotel’s now infamous rooftop lounge simply called the Roof and thus began Arman’s relationship with hotels and national management companies. In the process a new norm was created yet once again. Rooftop lounges began to pop up all over Chicago and hotel lounges and restaurants became popular destinations once again.
In a saturated market like Chicago where millions of dollars are being injected in to the market, the difference maker is not how much you can spend but how wisely can you get the most for your investment. Arman’s laser like focus on details and the benefit of the experience of a life spent in the hospitality industry with a proven track record for success has been the difference between getting by and succeeding. Therefore the question is not why you would engage someone like Arman, the question is why wouldn’t you?