Owner Dan Sachs will shutter the restaurant on Dec. 20. Enoch Shully -- Sachs' beverage director for the last three years -- in a licensing deal will gain exclusive use of the restaurant's name in Chicago from his mentor. He'll then open a new Bin 36 sometime in early April inside the former Province Restaurant at 161 N. Jefferson St. in the West Loop. Sachs will still retain ownership of the name. Shully said a lease for the space could be finalized this week. There won't be anything special commemorating the end of the line, but Sachs foresees a packed space before they close.
"The restaurant business is an incredible journey, and as much as I have passion of Bin 36, I have more passion for the people who are here—the employees and our guests," Sachs said. "And to know that that legacy is going to carry on is meaningful beyond words."
Sachs held a meeting with employees on Saturday informing them of their plans, which wasn't exactly a highly-guarded secret. Shully approached Sachs with the idea earlier this year, and the two have looked at more than a dozen spaces before deciding on the West Loop.
"It was evident we weren't going to be here [in River North] much longer," Shully said. "I believe in the concept just too strong to let the opportunity to pass by."
The near West Loop's restaurants and bars—like Sepia and Blackbird—carry much of the same energy River North did 15 years ago, said the 47-year-old Sachs. He feels too old to be involved with Bin on a day-to-day basis, and it made sense to pass the torch to the 31-year-old Shully. Shully's eager to keep the Bin 36 wine-by-the glass concept, classes and other traditions intact. He'll hold familiar events like Bin's champagne-centric Bubble Bath in the new space. (FYI, Dec. 10 is the date for the last Bubble Bath in River North.)
"The reason why people continue to come here, the reason Bin has become a success is Dan's brand's behind it," Shully said.
Sachs reflected on that brand he created: "We're not doing the most cutting-edge food, we're not trying to have the most esoteric wine program. What we wanted to do is provide something, a base for people to experience wine, cheese, food in a way that's inviting and enjoyable without a lot of pressure."
There's obviously also an economic side driving the move. Sachs said the rent is set to double on Jan. 1 after staying steady for the last 15 years. That's just a sign of River North's changing landscape, as Sachs reminisced about how Bin 36 was surrounded by parking lots when he first opened.
"The biggest problem that we had was when the sun set it would blast the restaurant, we had to install curtains in here and everything," Sachs. "You know at the time River North was a bastion for independent restaurants and it was an exciting place."
Increased surrounding development has made rent more costly, and landlord LaSalle Hotel Properties is primed to take advantage. Sachs isn't surprised, though they tried to no avail to convince LaSalle that having an independent hold out would be a strength for the area.
"They look around and see every national chain and restaurant group and what River North in the last 15 years has come to be and they want a piece of that pie," he said.
Shully is a native of the Central African Republic and learned the restaurant business working in Cape Town, South Africa at Arnolds, whose owner served as a mentor to Shully. Shully is in mourning as his mentor died last month. He hasn't yet hired a chef for the new Bin, and said the decor will be new, yet comfortable for Bin's regulars. The cheese program will see a few tweaks, as the West Loop space is smaller, and there's not as much room for storage. There still will also be a retail area, and Shully said they're aiming for a wine bar feel.
Given the smaller space at 5,516 square feet, Shully will need fewer workers. He plans to hire about 25, some of which may follow him from River North. Sachs employs about 50 for an 11,500 square-foot space. The West Loop space also includes a patio area that's more than 2,000 square feet, and there's an option to buy an adjacent outdoor area that would add another 2,000 square feet.
Sachs is unsure of his future plans, but he'll be around if Shully needs assistance.
"I'm excited to help him anyway he needs," Sachs said. "Or no way if he decides that I am too old actually, then that'll be the end of Dan. But I don't think that's the case."
The two haven't heard any rumblings to what will replace Bin in River North. The space is available in January, according to Crain's, which first reported the move.
"This is a big restaurant space and it's about to become a very expensive restaurant space," Sachs said. "And for the right operator it will be a fantastic experience, I'm sure."