Chicago’s Persona Lounge team: Young, gifted and in the black

Chicago's Persona Lounge team: Young, gifted and in the black
From left to right: Ron Platt, Charles Martin, and Bobby Burke (Photo courtesy of Persona Lounge)

Chicago is a city that has had its fair share of successes and downfalls. So it’s especially refreshing when a story can be told about a group of African Americans who found success in business, especially a business that makes everyone dance. One year ago, Charles Martin, Ron Platt, Bobby Burke, Mary Ann Marsh, Reginald Marsh and Dr. Ogbonna Bowden banded together and combined their skills to establish a new social scene called the Persona Lounge.

Rolling out sat down with members of the team to uncover the key to their success.

How did you all team up?

Martin: [Bobby Burke, Ron Platt, and myself] combined forces to form Civilized Lifestyle, an events and experiential group. After hosting our mid-month mixer at M Lounge for two years as well as other [venues] around the city [including New Year’s Eve at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel and St. Patrick’s Day at Soldier field], we realized we were making a ton of money, but for other people. We then teamed up with Mary Ann and Reginald Marsh to buy our own space. This was the start of Persona.

Were there any challenges that the team would have liked to have known about prior to opening?

Platt: Keeping up with an ever-changing market. As an entrepreneur in this business, you have to constantly be rolling out new ideas, unique concepts and keep your customers intrigued.

Please explain why you decided to name the space Persona?

Burke: We appeal to the diversity of personalities that represent this city. We welcome [the] unique characteristics of business professionals to entrepreneurs to artists to athletes to aspiring leaders and decision-makers — everyone’s unique contribution in one space. Persona makes for an unmatched vibe and experience.

Tell us about the venue.

Martin: It’s a classy and sophisticated feel. We offer a large variety of drinks, poured heavy. We have all types of all scotches, craft beers and martinis. The staff is experienced, friendly, and they understand the importance of impeccable customer service.

Chicago's Persona Lounge team: Young, gifted and in the black
Persona Lounge (Photo credit: Brandon Crudup)

Why should Chicagoans and people visiting Chicago want to visit Persona?

Burke: Persona brings out like-minded people who are on the move and doing something with their lives [or] looking for a reason to celebrate. We provide different vibes on different days, and we pride ourselves on being that venue for every different personality.

What is your favorite thing about working in a team? About owning your own business? 

Martin: [It’s] knowing that someone has your back. We are all professionals and can achieve anything among all of us. Having a great team is what makes any business successful. Stronger together.

Follow Persona on IG @personalounge or visit

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