The second attempt at running a restaurant inside the former Esquire Theater in Chicago’s Gold Coast has failed. Citing underperformance, Cooper’s Hawk will close its restaurant along Oak Street, home of some of Chicago’s poshest boutique shops, just around the corner from Michigan Avenue.
Cooper’s Hawk, the suburban Downers Grove-based wine-focused chain, opened its sole Chicago location in November 2019 (before COVID), hoping to elevate the brand and give wine club members — especially tourists — a downtown destination. It brought in visiting celebrity chefs like Tom Colicchio and Tyler Florence for events to generate buzz. Though CEO and founder Tim McEnery tells Crain’s that tourists showed up, ultimately that wasn’t enough for the 24,000-square-foot space. The restaurant’s final service is Monday, July 17.
The Esquire Theater opened in 1938 and was eventually converted to show movies. It closed in 2006. In 2012, Del Frisco’s Double Edge Steak House took over a renovated space and five years later added a bar, Esquire Champagne Room, upstairs. Like Cooper’s Hawk after them, the Del Frisco’s chain sought to make a splash and elevate its brand by staking a space in Chicago’s prestigious Gold Coast. Del Frisco’s vacated Gold Coast in 2017, a year after the Champagne Room debuted.
Crain’s reports that the Chicago location’s 150 or so workers may transfer to Cooper’s Hawk’s 57 other locations. McEnery says closing this restaurant will allow the company to focus on other locations and it’s planning to open four more restaurants this year.
In a post-vaccine world, Chicago leaders are figuring out ways to bring more business to downtown, partnering with entities like NASCAR to hold events that will attract tourists. There are new projects like the Evie coming to Michigan Avenue, but there’s no indication that a party is waiting in the wings to take over the Esquire spot.