Change was inevitable for Public House, a popular afterwork bar in River North where customers gathered with coworkers to catch up, watch a game, or to escape the tourists and late-night crowds known to pack nearby Hubbard Street’s venues. Ownership is rebooting the space with a new name, decor, and menu as Radio Room is pegged for a June debut. While the space will be renovated, DineAmic Hospitality assures customers they’ll retain what made Public House successful — including the Instagram-famous cake shakes.
In many ways, Radio Room will be a River North version of Bandit, DineAmic’s retro bar that opened in 2019 in West Loop. Bandit features unique elevated pub food in a space littered with nostalgic pop-culture references. The menu at Radio Room is described in a news release as “American Southern comfort food.” Look for waffle fries topped with smoked gouda and pulled chicken, and Nashville hot chicken sliders. Another sample item from executive chef Nolan Narut (Ella Elli, Stefani Prime) is Sichuan Brussels sprouts.
DineAmic co-founders David Rekhson and Lucas Stoioff say new lighting (RGB pin-twinkle lights that give the ceiling a new level of color customization and can also spell out words), plus a new entertainment format (the space will welcome live music performances backed by DJ sets) will usher in a new era for the 10,000-square-foot space on the northwest corner of State and Kinzie.
The music format is a chance to innovate, Rekhson says. Not everyone is in the mood to attend a concert, and for some, walking into a bar and seeing a band set up can be a buzzkill. Having the hybrid format deflates any of those hangups with less dead air time: “It’s kind of a fun, energetic vibe,” Rekhson says.
Creating the right atmosphere is more important than ever for DineAmic. While restaurants have stepped up with enhanced carryout options customers can enjoy at home, the pandemic has built up a desire to hang out in public.
“People have been eating good food,” Rekhson says. “What’s been missing is the social interaction and energy — that’s something we want to expand upon.”
“Pivot” isn’t just a term for 2020, as the pandemic reality encouraged DineAmic to go forward with the rebrand. State Street has a narrow sidewalk, and with tourists lurking, it didn’t offer much space for a patio or room for a tent. So DineAmic has installed new windows to allow more ventilation, a way it can continue to serve guests under state health department rules even if indoor dining is interrupted.
Crews will also install more high-top tables and booths in east bar room that will feature a large island bar made of zinc. The west bar room centers around a 50-foot concrete and copper bar and a 50-foot video wall that would be very handy during March Madness basketball.
Public House closed in late October after the state halted indoor dining. It enjoyed a 10-year run in River North. DineAmic likened the circumstances to another popular property. Bull & Bear, the group’s stock market-themed bar, closed in 2016 after a seven years in the neighborhood.
Rekhson and Stoioff are optimistic that Downtown Chicago will welcome back office workers and tourists this year, thus bringing back the space’s customer base. So that makes revamping the space a good move. For DineAmic, the silver lining for 2020 was how the city’s service industry has unified in the face of adversity. Seeing rival restaurant companies support each other has helped get through challenges.
“These bonds are going to be long lasting when you’ve been through something as changing and traumatic as this past year,” Stoioff says. “We’ve gone through this together.”
Radio Room, 400 N. State Street, planned for a June opening.