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Second City Restaurants Get Fresh Start as Popular Video Game Maker Buys Comedy Club

New owners include the CEO of Take-Two, the company behind ‘Grand Theft Auto’ and ‘Red Dead Redemption’

A sign outside a large, historic building reads “The Second City”
The iconic comedy club sold Thursday after eight months without an owner.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

A private equity firm has purchased Chicago’s legendary Second City, the comedy club and theater that launched the careers of stars like John Candy, Jordan Peele, and Amy Poehler. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated all businesses that rely on live performance, including theater and comedy. New ownership means a fresh start for two restaurants and one bar that neighbor the Old Town club.

New owner ZMC is run by Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two, the maker of popular video games including Grand Theft Auto, the NBA2K series, and Red Dead Redemption. The sale comes eight months after former Second City co-owner Andrew Alexander departed amid allegations that he allowed institutionalized racism to take root in the theater. ZMC leadership obliquely referenced the critiques leveled at Second City, telling NBC Chicago that the brand will prioritize diversity and “elevat[ing] all voices.”

Scott Weiner, co-founder of Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, operates rooftop bar Utopian Tailgate and a ground-floor location of Roots Handmade Pizza in the building at North and Wells. Weiner says he looks forward to working with management and praised Zelnick’s acumen, saying that the investment is good for Chicago and the neighborhood. Fifty/50 plans to stay aligned with the comedy club, as Weiner has previously said he has an agreement to operate a venue at Second City’s Toronto location.

It remains to be seen how the shift will impact 1959, the only restaurant in the Second City building that was included in the overall sale.

  • Second City Restaurants Await New Owners as Comedy Club Goes On Sale [ECHI]
  • Second City Purchased by Private Equity Firm [NBC Chicago]

In other news...

— Chicagoans may get to continue home beer delivery permanently if the city passes legislation. The police would also enable breweries to sell via third-party delivery companies like Grubhub and ChowNow. The bill, drafted by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, would also allow beer makers to ship their wares directly to customers for the first time. The Tribune has more on this story.

— A space originally slated for Caribbean-style bar X in Logan Square will soon become new noodle spot Monster Ramen, according to permits via Chicago Cityscape. The proposal for thew club was made by Out To Lunch Hospitality, a group that also had plans for Ukrainian Village dive bar Happy Village. Its Logan Square restaurant, Good Fortune, closed during the pandemic.

— Cincinnati-based Rhinegeist Brewery will debut on March 1 in Chicago for the first time, according to a rep. Chicagoans will then be able to find drafts and cans including Cloud Harvest unfiltered IPA, Wowie fruited ale (pineapple, passionfruit), and Bloom hard cider (pear, elderflower) across the city.

— International Women’s Day falls on March 8, and women-focused restaurant forum Let’s Talk Womxn will mark the occasion in two ways: a collaborative tasting dinner for takeout featuring dishes from local hospitality leaders including Beverly Kim (Parachute, Wherewithall), Julia Momose (Kumiko), and Genie Kwon (Kasama) and a moderated Zoom conversation with U.S. Representative Marie Newman from Illinois’ 3rd district. Participants can choose among a four-course ($85) or eight-course ($160) dinner for two. More details are available via Tock.

— Chicago-based Japanese soft serve spot Kurimu was crowned an overall fan favorite in Foxtrot’s nationwide Up & Comers Small Makers Awards, according to a rep. Ranked among the city’s best ice cream shops, Kurimu features bright, candy-colored cones with edible gold and silver leaf, along with boba ice cream bars and flavors like taro, sweet corn, and pandan in Little Italy.


3500 North Elston Avenue, , IL 60618 (872) 204-7138 Visit Website

roots handmade pizza

2200 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625 (773) 433-5959

Dive Bar

3445 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60657 (773) 770-4618 Visit Website

Utopian Tailgate

1608 North Wells Street, , IL 60614 (312) 210-7799 Visit Website

The Second City

230 West North Avenue, , IL 60614 (312) 337-3992 Visit Website

Happy Village

1059 North Wolcott Avenue, , IL 60622 (773) 486-1512 Visit Website


3472 North Elston Avenue, , IL 60618 (773) 692-2192 Visit Website

Good Fortune

2528 North California Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 666-5238 Visit Website


1159 West Taylor Street, , IL 60607 (312) 877-5227 Visit Website


1001 North Winchester Avenue, , IL 60622 (773) 697-3790 Visit Website


701 King Street, , VA 22314 (703) 419-3185 Visit Website


630 West Lake Street, , IL 60661 (312) 285-2912 Visit Website