Tony Hu may not be known as the "Mayor of Chinatown" for much longer. But if his plans come to fruition, he may soon be much more well known outside of Chicago.
Following the sale of Lao Beijing in January, Hu says he's planning to sell most of his restaurants in Chinatown. The original Lao Sze Chuan may be his only restaurant left in the neighborhood when all is said and done, which is the brand he says he's concentrating on for the future.
He's hoping to open more locations in other cities, following the opening of his Lao Sze Chuan Las Vegas in September and Lao Sze Chuan Downtown that opened in the Shops at North Bridge on Michigan Avenue in December, which he says is "so busy."
"So much work—I want to relax now," Hu says. "I want to make Lao Sze Chuan downtown successful. Many people in other cities want me to open Lao Sze Chuans. Many out of state. That's why I want to concentrate on Lao Sze Chuan, and do more fine dining."
Lao Hunan, Lao Yunnan, Lao Shanghai, and Lao Ma La are among the restaurants that Hu is attempting to sell off. Aside from Lao Hunan, customers will still recognize the majority of the others, which will keep the branding, names, and food, he says.
"Lao Hunan, we need a better staff so I don't want to give them the name," says Hu. "I might do Lao Hunan somewhere else."
While these restaurants were part of the mysterious FBI raids in October, Hu says their pending sales have nothing to do with it.
Hu, a prominent fixture in a myriad of Chinese community organizations in addition to the many restaurants he owns, may become much less prominent in Chinatown if the sales go through and he owns as few as one eatery in the neighborhood. It would be the end of an era.
"I would miss Chinatown," he says.