Gold Coast’s Tavern on Rush to shut down

Restaurateur Phil Stefani opened eatery in 1998

Phil Stefani with 1031 North Rush Street (Phil Stefani Signature Restaurant Group, LoopNet)
Phil Stefani with 1031 North Rush Street (Phil Stefani Signature Restaurant Group, LoopNet)

Chicago is losing the Gold Coast steakhouse where Michael Jordan once smoked cigars after a two-decade run.

Tavern on Rush, owned by local restaurateur Phil Stefani, said it will shut down for good at the end of the year, Crain’s reported. The restaurant, where Jon Bon Jovi was recently seen having a drink with Stefani, said the decision was “strictly” because its lease is ending.

The Tavern, long featured on an annual list of the nation’s top independent restaurants, opened in 1998 and will close after New Year’s Eve. Its landlords are Fred Barbara and James Banks, neither of whom returned requests for comments, the outlet said, citing Cook County records.

“You can only name on a couple of hands how many restaurants have lived to 25 years, so you’ve got to respect that,” Stefani told the publication. “Tavern on Rush probably could have, and should have, lasted longer.”

About 15 percent of the city’s restaurants closed during the pandemic, including Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in River North, Morton’s on State Street and The Prime Rib. Stefani said the decision was related only to the expiration of the lease.

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Tavern on Rush had a “very long run in a highly competitive neighborhood,” Phil Vettel, a longtime food critic at the Chicago Tribune who reviewed it soon after it opened, told the publication.

Stefani, 72, didn’t rule out reopening the restaurant elsewhere. His firm operates six restaurants, including Tuscany Taylor, the oldest, in Little Italy.

Another prominent local restaurant owner, Gibsons Restaurant Group, said earlier this year that it would open a location in Fulton Market. The company plans to lease about 15,000 square feet at the yet-to-be-constructed property at 917 West Fulton with plans to open in about two years.

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— Victoria Pruitt