A Latin American restaurant and cocktail bar originally slated for a remodel and “reconcept” is closed for good in the West Loop. Ronero owner Nils Westlind announced a temporary closure on Facebook in late December 2018, but confirmed Friday that the restaurant and its popular cocktail lounge Esco Bar are finished permanently on Randolph Row. A post to True West Loop includes photos of a “for lease” sign on the door.
Westlind cited a rent increase at the 738 W. Randolph Street location as the primary reason for the shutter. He said he initially hoped to make changes to the space and focus on cocktails rather than food, but ultimately ran out of time and funding.
The restaurant first opened in January 2017, and was noted for acclaimed chef Corey Morris’ food, rum drinks, and a speakeasy-style vibe. The almost $2 million buildout included the second floor lounge, basement, and skylights. Westlind opened Esco Bar inside the space a month later, and the cocktail den quickly became the centerpiece of the restaurant. “When we closed Ronero, we didn’t get much feedback,” Westlind said. “Since we closed Esco, I get contacted every single weekend because people want to go back.”
Though he is hesitant to comment on any concrete plans, Westlind said he would like to reopen Esco Bar, or a similar lounge, in the future. “We know the market is there for it,” he said. “As a business, it did well — better than the restaurant.” He added that he believes Latinos in Chicago are looking for an upscale venue with Latin American music such as merengue and live bongos, and he would like to bring a space like that back to the community.
This shutter opens up a prime location on “restaurant row,” which also houses local burger icon Au Cheval, popular brewpub Haymarket Pub & Brewery, and renowned chef Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat.