CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s the last call for Tavern on Rush.
The steakhouse and bar at 1031 N. Rush St. in the Gold Coast – popular with Chicagoans and tourists alike – closed for good Wednesday night after nearly 25 years, and more than two months earlier than originally planned.
As CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported Wednesday, Tavern on Rush is not closing because business isn’t good – they’ve kept going through all the ups and downs of the past couple years. The reason they are closing is because the owners of the building want to put a new restaurant concept in the space.
Owner Phil Stefani and his family paused Wednesday night to thank diners for their support.
“The success of this restaurant happens to be because of all of you here tonight,” he said.
The original plan was for the steakhouse to go out with a bang on New Year’s Eve, but Stefani said in a letter posted on the restaurant’s website that plans had changed, citing contractual matters beyond their control.
It all started earlier this year when the building’s landlord decided not to renew the lease for the steakhouse, but the owner said an agreement would have allowed them to stay open past the Halloween expiration date of the management contract. But ultimately, that’s not what happened – leading to this earlier-than-expected closure.
“Seeing the energy that’s here just makes you feel good,” said Angela Magenta of Chicago.
Tavern on Rush has energized the Gold Coast since April 1998. Thousands have walked through the doors – including celebrities like George Clooney, Jon Bon Jovi, and Matt Damon.
But it’s people like Susan Bennett – a true regular who has been coming to Tavern on Rush with her family since the very beginning – who are the restaurant’s bread and butter
“My husband and I come probably about once a week,” Bennett said. “We love the servers. We love the service. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people.”
Wednesday marked Bennett’s third trip this week – and her very last. Molina asked Bennett about her reaction when she found out Tavern on Rush was closing.
“I was devastated,” Bennett said. “I even got calls from my family – to check on us! Like, what would we ever do without Tavern on Rush?”
Bennett is joined by so many others.
“It’s sad it’s going away,” said Stephanie Kaufman of Chicago.
Kaufman said she’ll miss the Stoli Dolis – pineapple-infused vodka cocktails.
Many longtime regular patrons felt compelled to make the trip over to Gold Coast for one last scan of the menu – and one last seat at their table.
“We’ve been coming here for 20 years, and we’ve always sat at that table inside – we sat on the corner,” said John Dusek of Chicago. “Had to get here today – one last time.”
To many, of course, Tavern on Rush was more than just a restaurant on the corner of Rush Street and Bellevue Place – a strip that the nerve center of Chicago nightlife back in the 60s and 70s and has been a center of luxury shopping and upscale dining in more recent decades.
“My grandpa’s been coming here since it’s been open in the beginning,” said Giovanna Quagliato of Chicago.
The corner of Rush and Bellevue has changed a lot since 1998 – when a Chicago Tribune article by J. Linn Allen still called Rush Street “the fabled haunt of college kids and businessmen looking for drink and dangerous liaisons” while documenting new luxury residential developments at the time.
But for all the nearly a quarter of a century since then, Tavern was a place for Chicago to come together and celebrate life.
“A lot of memories here,” Dusek said. “Lot of memories here.”
“It’s going to be sorely missed,” said Magenta.
“I’m sorry that you missed it,” Bennett told Molina, “because it’s a great place.”
Molina checked in with the landlords Fred Barbara and James Banks, who – again – we are told are putting a new restaurant concept in the building. A secretary in Barbara’s office said the landlords had no comment – yet.
Tavern on Rush staff will be paid through the end of the year – the point until which they had thought they’d be open. Molina is told many of them are moving over to other nearby restaurants.
On Wednesday night, Stefani also hinted at reopening Tavern at a new location.