Tavern on Rush, a Gold Coast steakhouse and neighborhood staple, will be closing its doors after nearly 25 years.
The restaurant at 1031 N. Rush St. will close “for good” on Jan. 1 due to the end of a lease agreement, according to a message on the restaurant’s Facebook page. Owner Phil Stefani said the building’s landlord won’t renew the lease and wants his own restaurant venture in the space.
“When you don’t own a property, you don’t have a choice,” Stefani said. He said he’ll consider reopening the restaurant somewhere else, but that it might be hard to find a suitable location.
“I have to take it all in. I have to sit back and figure out how to duplicate this,” Stefani said.
He said he will take a planned September break at his home in Tuscany and ponder the matter with the help of seaside views. “There’s no better place to think than in Tuscany,” he said.
Stefani declined to discuss dealings with the landlord but said he doesn’t expect a change of heart that would keep his restaurant in place. Property records show the building is owned by a venture that involves prominent zoning attorney James Banks and Fred Barbara, a trucking tycoon. They could not be reached for comment.
“We owe our decades of success to our loyal customers and hardworking staff, many of whom have been with Tavern on Rush since its inception in April of 1998,” the restaurant’s Facebook message stated. “Chicagoans are invited to dine with us in the coming months to celebrate and say goodbye to the Tavern family.”
The last day of service for the steakhouse will be New Year’s Eve.
Tavern on Rush has had a devoted clientele that includes celebrities and politicians. Stefani said business bounced back well from the closures early in the pandemic, returning to profitability. “It’s not a question of money,” he said.
Stefani’s website lists eight other restaurants in the Chicago area. He said he recently took control of space at the southeast corner of Wells and Ontario streets, where he plans to open a restaurant but hasn’t settled yet on the cuisine. The space formerly was occupied by Al’s #1 Italian Beef, which relocated close by.
In the wake of the pandemic, he said he’s considering only locations that allow for outdoor seating. “Many people are still nervous about going into a restaurant,” he said.
Stefani also said he plans next year to remodel his Castaways Bar and Grill on North Avenue Beach.