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Ditka’s iconic Gold Coast steakhouse could close as lease nears final days

SNEED EXCLUSIVE: “It’s been a great run,” the legendary Bears coach says of the restaurant that opened in 1997.

Ditka’s Restaurant in the Gold Coast is closing.
Google

Bear down — really!

Hold da pork chop!

Legendary Bears coach Mike Ditka’s iconic Gold Coast eatery has been the recipient of a sack attack.

Sneed has learned the lease for Ditka’s restaurant, located in the vintage Tremont Chicago Hotel at 100 E. Chestnut St., will likely NOT be renewed at year’s end.

“Look, it’s been a great run,” Ditka told Sneed.

“It was unexpected. They sort of hit us by surprise,” he said. “But it’s over. Done. I’m disappointed. We were there a long time. But I’ve learned nothing is forever.

“The ownership is not from Chicago, but they have the right to do what they want with their property.”

In 2018, a venture of private equity firm Hotel Capital bought the 15-story Tremont Chicago Hotel, saying it was planning a “multimillion-dollar renovation” to modernize the property on the Magnificent Mile, an area seeing an uptick in its hospitality market and record tourism.

Although it appears it’s fourth and long for the eatery, Paul Woodard, the restaurant’s vice president of operations, is still hopeful they might work out a deal in the next 60 days. The restaurant already negotiated one extension on its lease after it was up in June and now is in place through the end of the year.

“It’s true the lease is up in December and we are in the process of looking for a new location,” Woodard said. “But we are still in the process of continuing to negotiate with the owners with an option to extend.

“They wanted to keep us from day one,” he said. “But the sticking point has been the economics of the deal due to needed renovations — and to a small extent — the plumbing in an old building.

“We were willing to invest in the remodeling, but they turned down our offer.”

But Michael Collier, owner of the Tremont Hotel, said they are hopeful the restaurant will stay put.

“It is far from the truth we want Ditka’s to leave,” he said. “I don’t get it. We have not asked them to leave. We love Ditka’s.”

He added that ownership was not requiring the restaurant to renovate: “Ditka’s wanted to do renovations and we offered them $1 million to do so. Apparently that wasn’t enough. But we have great respect for the coach and the restaurant and we would like them to stay. ... We are hoping to continue to work on final terms for a 20-year lease.”

Mike Ditka speaks at his restaurant in 2015.
Sun-Times file photo

A Sneed source said the Ditkas have been hit hard by the situation.

“Mike and [wife] Diana, who were frequent dinnertime fixtures at the restaurant and loved the place, were crestfallen. So now they are searching for a place in the same neighborhood.”

Ditka opened the restaurant in 1997. There are now locations in Oakbrook Terrace and Pittsburgh. A location in Arlington Heights closed, as did a restaurant/nightclub, Ditka’s/City Lights on Ontario Street, which was opened after the 1985 Bears’ Super Bowl run.

Filled with football memorabilia, Ditka’s features a “kick ass” paddle steak; a double decker hamburger named after former big Bear William “The Fridge” Perry; and da famous pork chop, which traveled with them from the Ontario Street location.

The current restaurant, on the ground level of the Tremont Hotel, occupies a space once occupied by Cricket’s, legendary for the snooty ladies-who-lunch crowd — and briefly as Cafe Gordon, run by retired chef Gordon Sinclair. (Yum).

No matter what happens, Ditka will always have a presence at that address. Why?

Because years ago the City Council baptized that section of the street that houses his restaurant “Mike Ditka’s Way.”

It’s just too, too!

And a big “thank you!”

In case you didn’t notice, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has tossed the crutches since discovery in August he had fractured a leg and ordered off it.

“I’m 95% better,” the governor tells Sneed, and he wanted to thank the kids at the Joffrey Ballet for sending him a get-well video reminding him that, as dancers, they know about the stress of a leg injury.

“I won’t be doing a pirouette anytime soon, but, if anybody can inspire me, it’s those terrific kids at the Joffrey who work so hard,” he said.

Greg Cameron, Joffrey Ballet’s president and CEO, tells Sneed the company created the “speedy recovery” video for Pritzker “because they understand issues of injury causing dancers to be off their feet occasionally!

“There is always an invite to the governor to the Joffrey Tower for a bit of company rehearsal,” Cameron said.

P.S. — The Joffrey’s production of “Jane Eyre” opens Wednesday at the Auditorium Theatre.

The police blotter . . .

A true INVESTment!

The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, which provides assistance to families of police officers killed or catastrophically injured in the line of duty, will be giving its “Golden Vest” to the band of brothers known as the Durkin boys: Kevin, Terry, Mike, Jim, Pat, Bob and Bill — for donations purchasing life-saving vests for the men in blue.

Kudos, guys!

Actor Jason Momoa (right) and Five O’Clock Steakhouse manager Stelio Kalkounas

Sneedlings . . .

I spy: Actor/singer/guitarist Jason “Aquaman”/”Game of Thrones” Momoa, who spoke at the U.N. recently about ocean pollution, was spotted ordering an ocean of seafood (natch) at Milwaukee’s Five O’Clock Steakhouse last week — sporting his famous top hat. . . . Wrestling star Chris Jericho and Anthrax rocker Charlie Benante also recently at Chicago Prime Italian in Schaumburg. . . . Saturday’s birthdays: Hugh Jackman, 51, Lara Trump, 37, and Kirk Cameron, 49. . . . Sunday’s birthday: Jerry Rice, 57, Kate Walsh, 52, Paul Pierce, 42, and Edward Mazur, 77, chairman of the City Club of Chicago and director-at-large of the Chicago Police Foundation.