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Chicago’s Legendary Pump Room Closes as Lettuce Entertain You Takes Over

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Rich Melman returns to the Gold Coast

The Pump Room
Ashok Selvam
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

UPDATE: The Pump Room will take a generic name as LEYE gets ready to take over the space. Customers can still dine in the space in the interim.

After months of speculation in the Gold Coast, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises announced that they’re taking over The Pump Room restaurant space inside the former Public Hotel with plans to open a new restaurant late this fall. Rich Melman and LEYE ran the space for 22 years, from 1976 to 1998. The hotel has new owners, as Journal Hotels purchased the property and has renamed it The Ambassador Hotel.

This is Journal Hotel’s first property in Chicago, the Tribune noted. The new name is also a throwback, as the hotel was known as the Ambassador East until 2010. The restaurant doesn’t have a name yet, according to a LEYE rep. The group will also operate the lobby bar, private events, and room service for the hotel. The Pump Room closed earlier this month.

Melman told the Sun-Times that he’s excited about returning to the hotel. He stressed the new restaurant will be done in more modern way. The Pump Room’s legacy runs deep since opening in 1938. It was a celebrity magnet drawing the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart. The hotel’s previous owner, Ian Schrager, purchased the hotel in 2010. He also owns The Pump Room name. Many know Schrager as the man behind New York’s Studio 54.

Schrager was eager to bring the Pump Room back to its original glory and unveiled a remodeled space that debuted in 2011. He brought in famed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, but the revamp never captivated Chicago’s modern diner. Last year, city health inspectors even briefly closed the restaurant for various violations.

Will Melman and Lettuce generate some electricity for this sleepy Gold Coast block? Check back in the coming weeks for more details.

Lettuce Entertain You

5419 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 878-7340

The Pump Room

1301 N. State Parkway, Chicago, Illinois 60610 312 787 3700