The Alinea Group’s foray into Downtown Chicago, announced in 2020, won’t be happening. The company has elected to pull out of providing the food and beverage at the upcoming St. Regis Chicago hotel, which is scheduled to open in June. The hotel is inside the 101-story skyscraper at 363 E. Wacker Drive originally known as the Vista Tower.
A memo sent to the building’s investors on Tuesday from Magellan Development Group states that Alinea’s decision was “due to the impacts of COVID on staffing shortages and supply chain issues” and that the group has “determined that now is not the right time for them to take on the project.” Instead, the company will focus attention on its three restaurants and two bars — Alinea, Next Restaurant, Roister, Aviary, and the Office. Alinea co-founder Nick Kokonas provided Magellan’s note to Eater Chicago and declined to comment beyond what was contained in that message. A Magellan spokesperson wasn’t immediately reached for comment.
Back in November 2020, Magellan announced Alinea was to run the $1 billion Lakeshore East building’s two restaurants and lounge spaces on the second and 11th floors. Monday’s message to investors says that talks have already started to bring in a new culinary partner “that will align with the high-level of luxury and quality of dining that is expected by our residents and hotel guests.”
From a luxury and presentation perspective, it’s going to be tough to top Alinea, the only Chicago restaurant with a full three-star rating from Michelin. During the pandemic, with indoor dining suspended and consumer confidence low thanks to the spread of COVID-19, the restaurant joined scores of others by selling meals to go — a rare occurrence for a fine dining spot. It also began selling vintage wine and spirit bottles from its cellars to generate revenue. In April 2020, Alinea confirmed the New York outposts of the Aviary and the Office would not reopen inside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Kokonas told Eater NY that the closure wasn’t pandemic related.
Magellan changed the building’s name from Vista Tower to St. Regis after bringing in Marriott International to operate the 192-room hotel on the bottom 12 floors. St. Regis is a luxury Marriott brand. Studio Gang, an internationally recognized architectural firm, designed the 1,191-foot-tall tower that also contains $1 million condos. It’s the city’s third-tallest building.
Alinea has another project that hasn’t seen an update in a while, a joint venture with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises to revive Ambria, a French restaurant in Lincoln Park that lasted 27 years before closing in 2007. Kokonas declined to comment on this unusual partnership between two of the city’s top restaurant groups. The parties wanted to revive Ambria in early 2020 at the Belden-Stratford building, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West, near the Lincoln Park Conservatory.