Losing The Berghoff Restaurant is the one I've felt the most emotional about in the series of lost Chicago icons I've written (Marshall Fields & Trader Vic's). The Berghoff Restaurant has been a Chicago establishment for 107 years. It is in its third generation of family who want to retire. They closed the doors yesterday, February 28, 2006.
Being in real estate my first question is why not sell it? But this restaurant has been passed down to 3 generations of family and they felt it would be best to leave it that way. The current owners simply want to move on. The good news is that their daughter, Carlyn, will now occupy the building, located at 17 W. Adams St., with her catering business called Artisitic Events. It has been written that she will open a bar that will still serve popular Berghoff beer.
The Berghoff has so much history. The restuarant was started by four brothers who sold their beer during the 1892 Chicago World's Fair. Because of their success, Herman Berghoff opened the Berghoff Cafe in 1898, selling beer for a nickel plus free sandwiches.
The restaurant started during prohibition and was successful enough that the restaurant was able to order the first 2 liquor licenses when the prohibition ended in 1933. The bar was for men only until Gloria Steinem and some friends demanded to be served in 1969. Even with those changes, the bar still only provided a washroom for men after all these years!
Avergage daily customers were around 1500 a day. During the announcement of the closing that figure doubled. Yesterday resulted in very long waits for patrons to be able to say they were served on the very last day of the Berghoff's existence.
If you and I feel the sadness of losing such an historic landmark of Chicago, imagine how the employees must feel. Many have been there for 20+ years. Michael Santiago, the night manager and Maitre' D, has been employed for 51 years. I'm hoping he is also prepared to start this new chapter of his life.
A sad time, indeed. Now, where can I find creamed spinach besides the freezer section in my grocery store?