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

CEO Tim McEnery said the pandemic and rising costs contributed to the decision to close the lavish three-story restaurant.
Esquire interior
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 version of the regular Cooper’s Hawk concept, featured a three-story “wine tower,” tasting room and rotating menus from famous chefs including Tom Colicchio. It made its debut in November 2019 in the home of the former Esquire Theater, only to close just a few months later due to the pandemic. It finally reopened last March.

CMO Tom Koenigsberg told Restaurant Business last year that the response to Esquire’s return had been “tremendous,” with members of Cooper’s Hawk’s wine club traveling from around the country to visit the 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 am looking 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 of the restaurant’s employees will be offered jobs at Cooper’s Hawk’s 14 other Chicagoland locations.

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 Piccolo Buco pizza concept, which currently has one 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 did not rule out creating another one-off like it, but said there are no plans to do that right now. 

Esquire’s struggles don’t appear to be a chainwide phenomenon. Cooper’s Hawk sales rose 15.5% in 2022, and AUVs rose to $9.5 million, according to Technomic. 

Indeed, upscale, experiential concepts like Cooper’s Hawk have been among the biggest winners coming out of the pandemic. At the same time, restaurants located in city centers, like Esquire, are still feeling the effects of the shift to remote work. According to data from Kastle, the average office occupancy rate across 10 large metros this week was still only about 50%.

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