After serving fine wine and cheeses for 18 years, Bin 36 is closed in the West Loop. The wine bar/restaurant had been on an extended vacation since January 1, but owner Enoch Shully confirmed that his restaurant at 161 N. Jefferson Street is closed permanently. This was the newer iteration of Bin which moved from a larger River North location (the current Katana site) at the end of 2014 to cap a 15-year run.
Wine novices felt at home at Bin 36 where staff taught classes and Shully possesses a talent to make guests feel at ease. Shully was Bin 36 founder Dan Sachs’ beverage director. He struck a deal with Sachs to continue business and keep the name in the West Loop where it operated for the last three years. Shully started working for Sachs in 2012. He called the shutter “purely a business decision.”
When Shully closed earlier this month, he thought there was a chance it’d reopen after he returned from a trip to Italy where he was pursuing other business opportunities. But his timetable changed upon his return.
“We are so thankful for the community — either in River North or the West Loop, around the country — even around the world,” Shully said. “Bin 36 has meant nothing but family — creating new memories for people...we’ll miss those people.”
While Bin focused on locals, competition in the area, particularly in the West Loop is fierce. It’s especially brutal when large companies, like Boka Restaurant Group and One Off Hospitality Group, are gunning for the same customers. Boka just opened up Bellemore one block south of Bin 36 on the corner of Jefferson and Randolph. The owners of Sepia last year opened a spin-off, Proxi, right across the street from Bellemore. Those businesses actually helped Bin 36 by bringing in more foot traffic. Business was suffering since Embeya closed in June 2016, Shully said. Bellemore replaced Embeya: Anything, even competition, is better than a vacant storefront.
Some in the West Loop fear that increasing property values will force out independent restaurants like Bin 36. While Shully had nothing but positives to say about his landlord, he said that only the big chains have the resources to compete with Boka and the larger restaurant groups in Chicago. Around the corner from Bin, Randolph Street has recent vacancies at The Lunatic, The Lover & The Poet, Won Fun/2Fun, Perez, and DeCero spaces.
“The only peers that can survive in the market are the Applebees of the world,” he said.
Continuity remained a problem at Bin which struggled keeping a chef long term. That made it difficult for diners to find consistency in the menu. Shully refused to blame the shutter on that.
It’s also worth noting that Shully is from South Africa, coming over to America to study electrical engineering. There are not a large number of blacks in the wine and spirit world in America. Shully embraced his heritage. He shared stories of his childhood with the Tribune. The paper noted that Apartheid barred blacks from purchasing wine. The racist system only ended 27 years ago. Experiencing that regime motivated Shully to ensure his wine bar was inclusive.
Shully produced his own wines at Bin 36, and there’s hope he can continue to do so. He’s not ready to share any news yet. One of those wines was named for his mother. She served as Shully’s inspiration the last three years. She wasn’t allowed to drink wine in her native country until 1991.
Prospective tenants are already looking at the space including a few familiar names to Chicagoans. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, read the full statement from Enoch and wife Jennifer Shully below.
“Bin 36 has always been a family business. From the legacy of the first Bin 36 to the warm community we cultivated with our staff, to the customers that felt like they were at home, this family has been at the root of what we’ve done. And now, it’s time for our own family to move on to a new phase in life. We will not be re-opening the restaurant, which is a very bittersweet feeling. It has been an honor to operate BIN 36 in the West Loop for the past three years, and an absolute privilege drinking wine with all of you.
Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, and the bottom of our wine glasses.
The Shully Family, Bin 36”