Citing challenges in Downtown Chicago, Etta has closed its River North location. Several workers contacted Eater Chicago saying management called them on Monday morning — two hours before their shifts began — informing them of the decision to shutter at 700 N. Clark Street.
Owner David Pisor tells Eater, after speaking with the building’s landlord on Monday afternoon, that they hope to open a new restaurant by spring.
Pisor adds that River North was “the best market in the city less than four years ago,” but the pandemic, a negative perception of Downtown Chicago, and the new city administration have created a challenging environment.
While he didn’t mention Mayor Brandon Johnson by name, he did say the city, which has agreed to gradually abolish the tipped minimum wage and expanded sick leave, are driving up costs: “Which I think is very scary,” Pisor says.
As he closes a second River North restaurant, he says his priority is to “make sure we take care of the restaurants that are strong and move on from the ones that aren’t able to make it work.” He adds that he will soon have news about a new downtown restaurant, one that could possibly serve steak.
Etta River North opened in 2020, a spinoff of the original location in Bucktown. That location, which opened in 2018, is loosely described as an Italian American restaurant with food cooked in a wood-burning oven with recipes from former executive chef Danny Grant. The Bucktown location proved popular right after opening, a neighborhood hotspot near Wicker Park and ownership wanted to replicate that closer to downtown in River North with tweaks including expanded morning offerings. Pisor says the Bucktown location remains healthy with “great and loyal clientele.”
Pisor and James Lasky opened Etta together. The two also co-founded Maple & Ash, the Gold Coast steakhouse. The parties split, with Grant siding with Lasky (they formed Maple Hospitality Group) in a feud that went public and resulted in a batch of lawsuits. After reaching a settlement late in 2023, Lasky and Pisor established separate companies while dividing assets from the former What If Syndicate. Pisor created Etta Collective which included three Etta locations, Aya Pastry in West Town (they have a thriving wholesale business providing baked goods to more than 50 coffee shops and other clients across the city), and Cafe Sophie in River North. Cafe Sophie closed late last year. Pisor confirmed the shutter was permanent last week to Eater and blamed the building’s design and slowed business around River North.
In June 2023, Pisor announced Etta would open a location in Evanston. Meanwhile a LA-area location which opened in 2021 closed in December. A Scottsdale, Arizona location, which opened in April 2022, appears operational. However, records show that location on January 18 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The restaurant’s website lists locations in Beverly Hills and Dallas as coming soon. Pisor says that when it comes to Evanston that “they’re very excited to keep that ball rolling,” but they weren’t sure if they were proceeding in California and Texas.
“I’m amazed about how much volume our restaurants do here and in Scottsdale,” Pisor says. “They’ve always done high volume, the market has always liked our product, we get great reviews, and people love the food, and I’m proud of that.”