Cooper’s Hawk closes Esquire, its downtown Chicago wine destination

Esquire reopened last March after a long pandemic interlude. / Photo courtesy of Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurants

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants is closing Esquire by Cooper’s Hawk, the opulent three-story destination it opened more than three years ago in downtown Chicago.

The restaurant, a more upscale take on the usual Cooper’s Hawk concept, featured a three-story “wine tower,” a tasting room, and rotating menus from celebrity chefs, including Tom Colicchio. It debuted in November 2019 in the home of the former Esquire Theatre, only to close a few months later due to the pandemic. It finally reopened last March.

CMO Tom Koenigsberg said Restaurant Business last year that the response to Esquire’s return had been “tremendous”, with members of the Cooper’s Hawk Wine Club traveling from all over the country to visit this unique location.

But the disruption from COVID, combined with the high cost of operating the massive 24,000 square foot space, ultimately proved too much, CEO Tim McEnery said in an email Thursday.

“As CEO, I want to express my gratitude to our staff and everyone who has walked through the doors and contributed to Esquire’s legacy,” he wrote. “I look forward to accelerating the growth of Cooper’s Hawk while continuing to create unique experiences for Wine Club members and guests.”

He added that all restaurant employees will be offered jobs at Cooper’s Hawk’s 14 other locations in Chicagoland.

The Downers Grove, Ill.-based company will continue to focus on what McEnery called the “more scalable” parts of its business: its 600,000-member wine club, the 54-unit Cooper’s Hawk and the concept of Piccolo Buco pizza, which currently has a location.

It will open six new Cooper’s Hawks this year and several more in 2024, and has signed new leases for Piccolo in the Chicago area.

Esquire was the only Cooper’s Hawk restaurant in Chicago proper. McEnery hasn’t ruled out creating another unique piece like this, but said there are no plans to do so at this time.

Esquire’s struggles don’t appear to be a channel-wide phenomenon. Cooper’s Hawk sales increased 15.5% in 2022 and AUVs reached $9.5 million, according to Technomic.

Indeed, high-end, experiential concepts like Cooper’s Hawk have been among the biggest winners of the pandemic. At the same time, restaurants located in city centers, like Esquire, are still feeling the effects of the shift to remote working. According to data from Kastle, the average office occupancy rate in 10 major metros this week was still only around 50%.

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