Plans for Chicago Playboy Club -- complete with Bunnies -- revealed
BY SANDRA GUY Business Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org August 29, 2011 5:50PM
The Il Mulino Restaurant, 1150 north Dearborn, is shown Monday, August 29, 2011. The restaurant is a candidate to house the new Playboy Club in Chicago. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 4, 2011 5:33PM
Chicago looks set to be home to a Playboy Club once again, complete with Playboy Bunnies — after a 25-year absence.
Investors are looking at six sites in Chicago, including four in the Gold Coast, as potential Playboy Club sites, and expect to announce the winner within 30 days, said Tom Morgan, a Playboy club licensee who is leading a group of investors and club operators working to open a Playboy Club here.
The Chicago club will feature a “very high-end, exclusive restaurant and lounge,” including a top chef who has yet to be determined, Morgan said.
“It’s not going to be another steakhouse or Italian restaurant,” he said. “It will be an exclusive offering that works now and will work 10 years from now.”
“The club in Chicago would be open to the public, but it would also offer VIP memberships with access to VIP tables, private events, members-only events and invitations to key events that would be held periodically,” he said.
The pricing of the VIP memberships is still being decided, Morgan said.
A casting call will be held for Playboy Bunny waitresses in the future, Morgan said. The 10,000- to 15,000-square-foot Playboy Club will employ about 50.
Morgan confirmed one potential site for the Playboy Club is at 1150 N. Dearborn, site of Il Mulino restaurant. A source said Monday that preliminary plans called for Il Mulino to move next door into a renovated space that now houses two buildings at 1154 and 1156 N. Dearborn, but that no changes were imminent.
“There is no construction going on next door, and no discussions have taken place in the last couple of months,” the source said.
A Playboy Enterprises spokeswoman had no comment Monday.
Playboy Enterprises CEO Scott Flanders said in October 2009 that he planned to expand a program started by his predecessor, Christie Hefner, daughter of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, to open updated Playboy clubs in partnership with established club operators. The Playboy Club at the Sands in Las Vegas, which opened five years ago, is listed at No. 30 in revenue of the top 100 bars and clubs nationally, with an estimated $10 million to $15 million in yearly revenue, according to a report by Chicago food retail consultancy Technomic and Nightclub & Bar magazine.
Besides the Playboy Club in Las Vegas, Playboy Clubs operated by licensees opened in 2010 in London, Macao and Cancun. Each is attached to a casino or hotel.
Technomic analyst and vice president David Henkes said Monday a Playboy Club in Chicago would have greater competition than when it opened at 116 E. Walton 51 years ago, just a few blocks from the Dearborn site. Playboy operated its own clubs at that time. “The growth has been pretty tremendous,” Henkes said, including Hooters, Tilted Kilt, Twin Peaks and other restaurants that feature similar types of edgily dressed waiters and waitresses.
“The Playboy brand is still very strong, and the ‘retro’ brands are back in style,” Henkes said. “But to some degree, Playboy is not as unique as it was.”