After more than 30 years at the top of the John Hancock Building, Chicago’s famed fine dining restaurant The Signature Room has abruptly announced that it is closed effective immediately with owners blaming the city’s coronavirus shutdown hysteria and the rising crime rates gripping the Windy City.
“Dear Signature Room Team,” a memo to employees read, according to Chicago’s WMAQ-NBC News:
We are truly saddened of the news that — after 30 years on top of Chicago — The Signature Room is closing effective Thursday, September 28, 2023. We are extremely disappointed that new lease terms could not be successful renegotiated with our landlord and, thus, not allowing us to continue our mission at the place we all love. As a result, we are forced to close our doors.
The memo added that the decision is “extremely difficult” and “overwhelming” for the restaurant’s owners.
Along with the memo obtained by WMAQ, a sign was posted in the Hancock Building announcing that the location was undergoing a “permanent” closing:
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the permanent closing of our beloved Signature Room at the 95th effective Thursday, September 28, 2023,” the sign, obtained by NBC Chicago, read. “For over 30 years, we have had the privilege and honor of serving Chicagoans and visitors from all over the world. Unfortunately, after the closure of our city and restaurant due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been faced with severe economic hardship and the challenges have been greater than anticipated.
The restaurant also posted a notice to its Facebook page:
But according to Crain’s Chicago Business, there were a series of pressures that forced the closing, all of which are bedeviling the entirety of Chicago’s business and retail sectors.
A letter to employees sent by owners Rick Roman and Nick Pykins pins the blame on economic issues and the city’s failure to curb downtown crime.
“Unfortunately, economic issues after the closure of our city and restaurant due to the COVID-19 pandemic persist. Chicago and Michigan Avenue have been slow to recover. Safety issues and negative publicity continues to deter visitors to Chicago. All of these issues are negatively impacting the health of our restaurant and are issues that are completely out of our control,” the pair wrote. “As a result, we are forced to close our doors.”
Crain’s characterized the shutdown as a “gut punch” for Chicago’s famed retail area, the Magnificent Mile.
The closure is also a blow to the company that owns the space. New York-based Madison Capital and Newark, N.J.-based PGIM Real Estate had begun looking for buyers for the restaurant and the bar above it and used the establishment’s fine dining reputation as a buying draw. But that selling point is now off the real estate menu.
The building was sold off section by section, instead of in total, to retailers and businessmen. Madison and the company PGIM purchased the restaurant’s two floors in 2012 after Deutsche Bank took possession of the building when a previous owner defaulted.
While retail theft is not one of the pressures that the famed restaurant faced directly, it is part of the problem. As more and more retail stores close in Chicago, there are fewer and fewer people walking around that might want to go to lunch or dinner, or have a drink.
For instance, Chicago’s WTTW noted that retail theft had cost Chicago businesses more than $2 billion in losses in 2021 and that number has only gotten worse since.
Meanwhile, arrests for retail theft plummeted as liberal prosecutors decided to stop prosecuting such crimes.
Crain’s reported that in 2022, the vacancy rate of retail space had soared to more than 30 percent in Chicago’s downtown shopping districts.
The Washington Examiner added that the city’s business sector was hit hard by the draconian response to the coronavirus and has never recovered despite the return to business. But the soaring crime rate is also a major factor as businesses board up and never reopen thanks to riots, roving gangs of destructive teens, and massive retail theft.
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