Is the Chicago lounge back in full operation yet?

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MARC Rider

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What was the logic behind not allowing outside food & drink when the offerings inside were all free? It's not like a theater where they want you to spend money at the concessions stand.
From my experience in the new Chicago lounge (November 2019):

1) The free offerings were not extensive enough to make any sort of meal, though the drink selection was nice.
2) The had no problem with people bringing in outside food. (I ate a Gold Coast Dog (RIP) Chicago Style Hot Dog in full view of other AU members while waiting for the Texas Eagle and had no problem at all.
3) On my return trip, while waiting for the Cardinal, someone set up a cash bar that served alcoholic beverages.
 

MARC Rider

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The Empire Builder and Coast Starlight (,in the Parlor Car!)had nice ones too with Local Wines and Cheeses till the Bean Counters killed them!
I participated on one of those when I rode from Havre to Chicago. It wasn't Montana wines and cheeses, it was Washington State wines and higher-end Wisconsin cheeses. They did a trivia contest to see who got one of the half-finished bottles, and I won it! The question was, what is Amtrak's official name? There are times when it helps to be a railfan! :) Anyway, I had a nice half a bottle of Washington State Riesling to enjoy in my compartment that evening.
 

tim49424

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They let outside food in the old lounge. The only lounge where I've been hassled about outside food is the Club Acela in Washington.
When the new Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago opened in July, 2016, they originally did not allow outside food. They lifted the restrictions in early 2019 after the closing of the Legacy Club.
 

Brian Battuello

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I may have told this story, but back in the LSL wine and cheese days, the diner served as a very small menu cafe south of Albany to NYC. I asked for a glass of wine, and one of attendants hanging around gave me a full bottle from the departure party for free. One less thing for him to carry off the train.
 

tim49424

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I participated on one of those when I rode from Havre to Chicago. It wasn't Montana wines and cheeses, it was Washington State wines and higher-end Wisconsin cheeses. They did a trivia contest to see who got one of the half-finished bottles, and I won it! The question was, what is Amtrak's official name? There are times when it helps to be a railfan! :) Anyway, I had a nice half a bottle of Washington State Riesling to enjoy in my compartment that evening.
I won too! My question (the final question of the session) was "As I was going to St. Ives,I met a man with seven wives,Each wife had seven sacks,Each sack had seven cats,Each cat had seven kits:Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,How many were there going to St. Ives?" I knew the answer because it was used in the movie "Die Hard With a Vengeance" which is part of my DVD collection. It helps to know movies, even though the origin of the question is centuries old. It was one of the last wine and cheese tasting sessions back in June, 2013 on the Empire Builder. My mom and I were headed back from Portland on her first trip on Amtrak.
 
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crescent-zephyr

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(No Amtrak lounge has alcoholic beverages, free or otherwise. I have been known to bring a bit of an additive for the free coke. Just be subtle...)
The Chicago lounge provided free wine at scheduled times. Served by an attendant.

Didn't the Chicago lounge sell wine? The person used to set up by the base of the stairs.
Yes. It was free.

They let outside food in the old lounge. The only lounge where I've been hassled about outside food is the Club Acela in Washington.
Yes DC is by far the most strict in my experience as well. Wouldn’t even let me bring a Jamba Juice in.
 

joelkfla

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MARC Rider

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Just if Chicago (and LA) had this
You understand that powerful big-shots actually ride the train regularly between New York and Washington, enough so that they would qualify for lounge access on a routine basis. Some of these big shots actually have political power over Amtrak's appropriation, and if they don't have that, they might be media big-shots who can make a difference in Amtrak's presentation to the National media, or they're financial big shots who might have some influence on various financial aspects of Amtrak. If I were Amtrak, I would definitely want to make such customers happy, very happy. The only question I have is why they haven't upgraded the lounge in Washington.

On the other hand, the lounge in Chicago is mostly used by retirees and train buffs who are riding sleeper coast to coast, plus local folks riding business class, who while they may be accomplished professionals in their fields, they aren't the Masters of the Universe. There may be some west coast media moguls who ride Amtrak out of LA from time to time, but it's just not the same thing. The most practical way to get to DC from LA is by flying, so the west coast bigshots are more likely to be found at LAX, not LAUPT.

For this reason, Amtrak may have more of an interest in providing an exceptional lounge product at the New York hub as compared to their lounges in Chicago or LA.
 

crescent-zephyr

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You understand that powerful big-shots actually ride the train regularly between New York and Washington, enough so that they would qualify for lounge access on a routine basis. Some of these big shots actually have political power over Amtrak's appropriation, and if they don't have that, they might be media big-shots who can make a difference in Amtrak's presentation to the National media, or they're financial big shots who might have some influence on various financial aspects of Amtrak. If I were Amtrak, I would definitely want to make such customers happy, very happy. The only question I have is why they haven't upgraded the lounge in Washington.

On the other hand, the lounge in Chicago is mostly used by retirees and train buffs who are riding sleeper coast to coast, plus local folks riding business class, who while they may be accomplished professionals in their fields, they aren't the Masters of the Universe. There may be some west coast media moguls who ride Amtrak out of LA from time to time, but it's just not the same thing. The most practical way to get to DC from LA is by flying, so the west coast bigshots are more likely to be found at LAX, not LAUPT.

For this reason, Amtrak may have more of an interest in providing an exceptional lounge product at the New York hub as compared to their lounges in Chicago or LA.
Ah yes... only the north east corridor matters. Where have I heard that before.
 
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PaTrainFan

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From the Amtrak Five Year Plan, vague as it is, with no specific timeline established:

Standardize the designs and elevate the offerings of all station lounges, now branded as Metropolitan Lounges, to enhance the customer experience with the current and next generation customer in mind.
 

crescent-zephyr

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For this reason, Amtrak may have more of an interest in providing an exceptional lounge product at the New York hub as compared to their lounges in Chicago or LA.
So far, the only lounge that has actually provided any alcohol is Chicago. We shall see what actually opens in NYC and how long it lasts.
 

Michigan Mom

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Am I alone in thinking the Chicago lounge is very well managed? Maybe it's because I'm an infrequent visitor there. Pre-Covid, I was quite impressed with the service and offerings, however we never spent significant amounts of time in the lounge, it was more about stowing the luggage and leaving until departure time. Come to think of it, that is my one issue with the lounge. With the amount of sleeper traffic, the bag check room would get so full it was a challenge trying to find a spot, and the agents would discourage you from trying. I would get creative consolidating space, taking care not to impede egress/ingress (because the agents would not let you do that anyway) but it got challenging. If traffic returns to normal levels, they really need a larger bag room.
 
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