Chicago will lose a half-century-old jazz club and a defining culinary cocktail lounge in one swoop on New Year's Eve. The Rush Street site of The Drawing Room and The Back Room will shutter on Dec. 31, likely becoming retail after the calendar flips to 2015.
A new tenant will replace the Urban Outfitters next door and will take over part of The Drawing Room and Back Room spaces, according to owner Jay Runnfeldt. "We've been negotiating with the landlord for months trying to work it out but they want us out," Runnfeldt says. "It's very sad, of course."
A breeding ground for so many of Chicago's top cocktailers, such as Charles Joly, The Drawing Room opened six years ago around the same time as The Violet Hour. High-end, plush, low-key, educational, esoteric and hidden in plain sight through a hosted door on Rush, the subterranean lounge and restaurant had a defining role in helping Chicago's cocktail culture reach new heights.
The Back Room has been a Gold Coast jazz and soul destination for both tourists and Viagra Triangle natives for 48 years. It moved a block south to the current location in 2012, which was formerly home to the nightclubs Le Passage and Privet. Following the shutter of nearby Jilly's that same year, this year's closing of The Back Room is another nail in the coffin of the Gold Coast glory days.
Runnfeldt says he broke the news to "heartbroken" former and current staff last night. "We are proud of what we have done and proud of where all of you past and present have gone and are going," he told one. "We were on the forefront of culinary cocktails in Chicago and couldn't have done it without all of you and your dedication."
He is keeping the licenses because "they don't want it," he says, so there's a slight possibility of reopening somewhere else. And there's always New Year's Eve.