There's been some wheeling and dealing down on Hubbard Street to start the New Year, bringing an end to one of the neighborhood's best-known clubstaurants. After a six-year run, multi-level River North mainstay Epic closed on Saturday night—as owner Steve Tavoso sold the space to Hubbard Inn ownership, who plan on reconcepting it under a new name. The inn directly neighbors Epic on the east and Monday afternoon saw former Epic workers dropping by to search for new jobs, hoping to be placed there or at the group's other two establishments, Pomp & Circumstance in Old Town or Barn and Co. in Lincoln Park.
It was a difficult decision for Tavoso, who said he'll miss the daily interactions with his employees the most. "We were doing all right, but that space can do so much better," he said.
Tavoso says dining numbers were down in recent months, and he wanted to invest more money into the space to spruce things up. His financiers weren't interested in spending more, so he struck a deal with Hubbard Inn ownership. The decision to sell came at the end of the year while Epic remained closed for the holidays.
Multiple employees confirmed that management told staff on Wednesday, Dec. 30 that they would need to look for new jobs and they posted farewell photos over the weekend on Facebook. Management in recent weeks also told customers who reserved Epic for private events that those plans were cancelled, and in one case an office party for 40 planned for later this month was moved to Cantina Laredo.
Epic, which opened in 2010, helped define Hubbard and River North as its current clubby state as a popular nightlife hub, especially among the tourist and suburban crowds. When it opened, it earned acclaim from cuddly national critic John Mariani, then writing for Esquire, who anointed Epic one of the best new restaurants in the country. It originally packed diners in with an elevated menu, but has since gotten away from focusing on food, choosing to become more of a nightlife destination. The 10,400-square-foot, multi-level space with 24-foot ceilings—including a very popular rooftop—will give Hubbard Inn management some options in a prime location.
"We definitely changed the dining scene in River North by opening such a big space and going after the bigger guys," Tavoso said. He added that he believes Epic began the trend of developers spending more money on Hubbard Street projects, giving the drag "a Las Vegas feel."
Tavoso is also confident that the Epic space will prosper under Hubbard Inn's management. Owner Carmen Rossi has yet to respond to inquiries, so it's unclear what he's planning for Epic or when it will launch. Check back later for any updates on what happens to the space.