Friday, February 8, 2019

Hotel Essex Nears April 1st Opening and Provides New Info on Bar and Restaurant

The Sloop is getting close to gaining an interesting hotel concept on Michigan Avenue (via Chicago Tribune):
Developers have unveiled new details — and an opening date — for a roughly $250 million project that includes the transformation of the old Essex Inn into a “luxury lifestyle hotel” in the South Loop.

The new Hotel Essex, 800 S. Michigan Ave., is scheduled to start checking in overnight guests April 1, nearly a year after the Essex Inn was shuttered for a gut rehab.

The landmark building’s iconic rooftop sign and steel-and-glass facade will remain, but the interior is in the final stages of being transformed into a more upscale hotel that puts a fresh spin on the building’s midcentury modern roots, said John Rutledge, CEO of Chicago-based Oxford Hotels & Resorts, which will manage the property.
Back in 2014, we were cautiously optimistic that this property could bring something unique to the neighborhood - a trendy vibe.  Whether that's a bar or a restaurant, or just clientele.  Speaking of which here is a description of the space we're most interested in:
In an interesting use of shared space, the hotel’s bilevel lounge, SX Sky Bar, occupies the fifth and sixth floors of the adjacent Essex on the Park apartment complex. The lounge’s retractable glass walls showcasing views of the lake can be opened during the warmer months.

Hotel guests and the public enter the lounge on the sixth floor, where small plates and craft cocktails will be served at lunch, dinner and in the later hours. A staircase leads down to a “tech-inspired” dance floor and smaller spaces that can be rented for private events.

While SX Sky Bar is in the apartment tower, the latter has its own fleet of private amenities — outdoor fire pits and cabanas, an indoor pool, fitness center, lounge areas and more — available only to apartment tenants.

SX Sky Bar is designed along the lines of multilevel hangouts that have become popular with both locals and visitors in other Oxford-run hotels in Chicago, such as I|O at The Godfrey and LH at LondonHouse.
The skeptical person in us questions whether or not the neighborhood is going to make good use of this.  The optimistic person says if you build they will come.  We'll have to check back on this once it's officially up and running.

There was a lot to like in this article and our favorite one was the news that the restaurant is in fact going to be a French Bistro by the LM restaurant group:
A ground-floor area straddling the hotel and apartment building will be the site of the new Grant Park Bistro, a modern French grill from Chicago-based LM Restaurant Group that will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, along with weekend brunch.
The bistro takes the place of the former Brasserie by LM, which closed in early 2016 after four years at 800 S. Michigan Ave.

“When we bought the Essex Inn, we cut a deal with them to close down as we were redeveloping the space,” Rutledge said about the eatery. “We then cut a new deal with them to come back with a reinvented, even more upscale concept once we opened.”

The bistro’s menu will lean heavily on grilled meats and vegetables, as well as charcuterie and French cheeses. The 40-seat dining room looks into the open kitchen. A 26-seat bar area sits next to a cafe. In the summer, an outdoor patio that can accommodate up to 40 diners will line Michigan Avenue.
Call us shocked!  When we originally heard about the plans for the hotel and the closure of the restaurant we thought there was no way it was coming back.  Fast forward four years and the LM restaurant group is still involved (albeit in a more "upscale" manner).

This is pretty exciting for the neighborhood.  Hope it lives up to the hype!

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