Otto Mezzo, the River North bar that chef and restaurateur Kevin Hickey opened in April with Billy Dec’s Rockit Ranch Productions, has closed. The late-night lounge at 311 W. Chicago Ave. served its last drink on Friday, according to its acclaimed barman Brandon Phillips, which was the same day Hickey announced he was taking his Bridgeport restaurant, The Duck Inn, independent and dissolving his partnership with Rockit. Hickey, in a widely-distributed statement, called the departure a mutual decision. He wants to focus on his South Side roots and teased a Duck Inn branding announcement in the coming months.
Otto Mezzo’s head bartender Brandon Phillips confirmed that he has left Rockit and will continue to partner with Hickey at Duck Inn. The duo’s relationship extends to their work at Bottlefork. That’s another Rockit/Hickey collaboration and some in Chicago’s bar industry are speculating on the future of that River North restaurant.
Otto Mezzo’s website now greets visitors with a message reading that the space is closed for the public but available for private events:
THANKS TO ALL WHO ENJOYED OTTO MEZZO.
We will miss you for our regularly scheduled hours of operation and are excited to continue to book private parties and special events.
Rockit put considerable time and effort into Otto Mezzo, an art-deco space that focused on Italian cocktails, beers, and wines. It debuted with a preview party the weekend before the James Beard Awards. The bar space had been empty since summer 2015 when Rockit’s Ay Chiwowa closed. Rockit Ranch and Dec, the industry vet behind River North spots including Rockit, Sunda, and The Underground, have yet to comment or put out a statement. The group took a while to figure out what could work inside the space before going forward with Otto Mezzo. Dec is apparently taking on new responsibilities, including talking to pro basketball players for Esquire and wearing wigs for a movie role.
The Duck Inn, an Eater 38 restaurant, opened in 2014, and Hickey is proud of his Bridgeport roots. The abrupt departure and Otto Mezzo’s closure leave plenty of questions unanswered. Hickey, when reached by phone, echoed much of the distributed statement by saying that he and Rockit Ranch continue to have a good relationship and that it was just time to do his own thing again, to refocus his energy on his South Side roots, his family, and his family restaurant. He also teased that more projects for him are in the works.
Check back in the coming days for more on this story.