PUBLIC Chicago Opens with a Bang – and a Bargain

by  Kristan Schiller | Jan 2, 2012
Chicago skyline
Chicago skyline / JByard/iStock

Good news for fans of Ian Schrager hotels who can’t afford the typical Ian Schrager hotels. The new PUBLIC Chicago – and the modernized Pump Room restaurant – opened in September along Chicago’s Gold Coast as the first in Schrager’s PUBLIC brand, which rejects the opulent design concepts and hefty room rates he espoused over twenty years ago as founder of Morgans Hotel Group (Morgans includes The Royalton in New York and The Sanderson in London, among others). Schrager’s launch of the new PUBLIC brand brings with it a more toned-down approach as well as affordable rates (PUBLIC offers a $135 a night promotional rate for a standard queen room for available through mid-March 2012) which he hopes will draw consumers to this and other planned PUBLIC hotels in New York and elsewhere. In launching the PUBLIC brand, Schrager says he aims to once again revolutionize the hotel industry, which has lost touch with what consumers want in place of posturing and overly-posh amenities.

The 285-room PUBLIC Chicago is minimalist yet comfortable, with communal work tables in the lobby and library featuring iMacs, use of which is free, and a 24-hour fitness center. There are armchairs draped in sheepskins positioned by a roaring fire and a massive selection of coffee table books for people to peruse as they nurse their drinks. And then, of course, there is the historic Pump Room restaurant that once drew the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Marylyn Monroe, and Frank Sinatra (Sinatra’s private booth remains, for old time’s sake). The Pump Room’s kitchen is now overseen by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, winner of a 2011 James Beard Award, who has created an affordable menu with refreshing, organic takes on classic comfort food. Come evening, the restaurant bar becomes a trendy nightspot which, judging from a recent visit, already has become a favorite with locals.

In keeping with the focus on service and functionality, Schrager has also launched a new take on room service, Public Express. The service charges no delivery fee and includes selections such as steel-cut organic oatmeal for breakfast and grilled Scottish salmon salad for lunch, delivered to your room within ten minutes in a brown bag hung on the door knob outside and a quick knock. During my stay, breakfast arrived in just under six minutes. Bravo!

One caveat for would-be visitors: The Schrager name and Pump Room history have combined to make this one of the hottest spots in Chicago, so if you crave a quiet evening without a lot of crowds and hub-bub, this hotel is not be the place for you (at least not until the opening frenzy subsides).

For general trip-planning information, see our Chicago Travel Guide.

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