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Not long after the news came out yesterday about South Beach, came this news about the Hyatt Centric The Loop:
Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago, a 22-story property first constructed in 1927 by Frank Chase, has undergone a transformative renovation from an office building to an iconic new hotel, all while maintaining the integrity of the building’s roots. The hotel features 257 guest rooms, 2,513 square feet of meeting space, a 24-hour fitness center, rooftop bar and a new signature French bistro, Cochon Volant, run by James Beard award winning Master Chef Roland Liccioni. The hotel will showcase elements of the area’s rich cultural and architectural past while offering guests a full range of modern amenities.
Some rather upsetting news for a Monday morning--hotelier Ian Schrager is not only looking to sell his game-changing hospitality concept, the Public Hotel Chicago, which opened in the city's Gold Coast nabe in 2011, but that if a sale does go through, the hotel may no longer go by the name Public Hotel.
Chicago Real Estate Daily reports that Schrager and financial partner Morgan Stanley Real Estate Funds have put the hotel on the market, hoping to sell it for about $86 million. Terms of the sale would not include a management contract with Public nor even a requirement to keep the name, Public Hotel. Industry experts have also chimed in, saying the hotel is ripe for a new brand and a management change.
No word on what will happen to the iconic Pump Room restaurant either, a historic spot whose interior was transformed by Yabu Pushelberg and whose menu was created by Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Not gon' lie, we almost started to hyperventilate reading this news. But apparently, this is not the end of the Public Hotels brand.
We've got perfect timing to recommend 3 more hot hotels in Chicago, following the fifth biggest snowstorm the city has ever seen. So without further adieu, strap on your snow boots, zip up your Moncler jacket and head straight to these Chicago hotels for some serious hibernating (or at least one night in a warm and pampering hotel):
The Palmer House Hilton: The Palmer House is steeped in Chicago tradition. It was originally bought by Potter Palmer as a wedding gift for his new bride Bertha (lucky lady). Thirteen days after its purchase, it burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire (huge bummer). But ole’ Potter persevered, rebuilding it from the ground up and it re-opened in 1873; it’s now the nation’s longest continually running hotel (and a very upscale Hilton).
The Lockwood Restaurant and its bar are stunning – and the cocktails start flowing at 11:00 am if you want to get an early start. Afternoon tea is served daily from 2:00 to 4:00 pm and room service is 24 hours. Make time for a visit to the Balance Spa, health club and indoor pool. Interested in Chicago history? Take the very cool “History is Hott” tour (you don’t even have to leave the hotel!) where you’ll learn interesting factoids like Chicago is actually named after an onion.
While Chicago temps are going down and the streets are piling up with snow, we can always rely on the folks over the W Chicago City Center to keep us warm and toasty with delicious libations. We scored a chance to catch up with the hotel's head bartender and resident mixologist, Lauren Parton, to get her thoughts on industry trends and what we can see for the spring thaw when it comes to drinking.
(Coincidentally, Parton was tasked with creating the cocktail menu for the renovation relaunch party for their sister property, W Chicago Lakeshore, and whipped up some edible cocktails that were passed around like hors d'oeuvres. We can't argue with this concept.)
The genius mind behind a specialty cocktail menu in the W's Living Room, Parton has more than just cocktails in her repertoire. Her industry career began creating some culinary masterpieces in a few of Chicago's greatest eateries. When she made the move to hotel bartending--at Raffaello's Drumbar--Parton was shipped off to Bourbon Camp and the rest is libation history!
Keep reading for our Q&A with Lauren Parton
Back in August, the yet-to-open Virgin Hotels began encouraging people to spread rumors about the hotel on social media. The person who had the best #VirginRumor would then win a two-night stay at the hotel during the opening party (which was held last weekend) along with airfare and transportation.
What we didn't know then was that Sir Richard Branson would actually act out one of the rumors for Lauren, the grand winner--tucking her and her fiancee in and reading them a bedtime story (Where The Wild Things are, one of the winner's and ours favorites.)
You can actually watch Branson reading part of the book here:
This is surreal. Perhaps Virgin should just make future recordings of Branson reading bedtime stories and make them available on the app or through the TV so that every guest can have this experience.
Next up for The Virgin Chicago is the opening of the Two Zero Three on February 14 (we hear some special V-day festivities are planned) as well as Miss Ricky's All-American Diner on March 2. Don't forget, Virgin plans to kick off Chicago's rooftop season in April with not one, but two rooftop spaces. And that's not a rumor.
READ ALL ABOUT SLEEPING WITH A VIRGIN (SANS BRANSON BEDTIME STORY) HERE!
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While wining and dining the Virgin was great, as was experimenting with new
positions chambers, there was something that Doug Carillo, vice president of sales and marketing for Virgin Hotels, told us that has really stuck with us this past week. And that's Virgin Hotels commitment to free WiFi.
For us, it’s always been that we feel WiFi is a right, and we need it to live. If we don’t have it and its not working fast enough, then we are failing the guests.
Wow. It's only taken more than a decade but someone finally understands this.
Indeed, getting on the WiFi network at Virgin--whether a hotel guest or a visitor elsewhere on property--is effortless. Just find the Virgin Hotels network and hop on. It's that easy.
Because WiFi networks can be expensive to build and maintain, or rather, because hotels often use this as their excuse for charging for WiFi, we asked Carillo if maybe Virgin was bumping up the room rate to make up for the cost of offering unlimited free bandwidth to guests and pretty much anyone just passing through. Nope. Here's what he said:
The view from the Park Hyatt Chicago. Brrr.
Chiberia has already raised its icy head in Chicago with wind chills in the negative double digits and tourists running for cover. But there’s no need to suffer the elements this winter in Chicago--simply find a luxe hotel in downtown to hunker down. With these full-service posh options, you won’t have to venture out, nor will you want to.
The James: Drag yourself downstairs, away from the modern, comfy room to experience dry-aged steaks at David Burke’s Primehouse, which also serves breakfast and lunch. Feeling reclusive? David Burkes can be delivered right to your door via room service. One item not to miss: the bacon stick with black pepper and maple syrup. And if you wake up at 3 a.m. craving more bacon? No problem, room service operates around the clock. The Asha Spa offers a menu of treatments specifically for men so they can pretty themselves up before reentering society. Get a nightcap at the JIMMY bar or check out the happy hour special from 6 pm to 8 pm Wednesday through Friday with $6 wines by the glass and $5 appetizers from David Burke’s.
In a foodie city such as Chicago, it's great news when a hotel takes their food and beverage offering serious. That's why we're pretty excited to catch a flavor of (wayyyyy) South of the border at the new Loews Chicago once they open in March.
Previously unreleased, the hotel has picked hometown chef, Jose Garces, to tempt the taste-buds of guests and locals as he chars up some of his Argentinian faves in the themed restaurant. Featured as a central focus for the eatery is the parrilla, or grill, Rural Society's menu will explore cooking more than steak on an open flame creating an authentic and refreshed experience using quebracho, an Argentine hardwood to cook the meats.
We stepped out on the Virgin Chicago during our stay last weekend with a visit to the other new British import in town, Soho House Chicago in the West Loop nabe. But it was only for dinner and drinks. We didn't stay the night. Promise.
Having drooled over the pictures of Pizza East at The Shoreditch House in London (also a Soho House property), we were eager to get a piece of the wood-oven pizza pie stateside at Pizza East Chicago. But as it turns out, despite the restaurant name and despite its location in a city known for its deep dish, we actually preferred Pizza East's two starters to the main margherita pie ($16.)
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Over the weekend, we did IT. We finally slept with Virgin Hotels. It was not what we expected, since we didn't know what to expect, thanks to Virgin Hotels keeping their hotel product under wraps (lots of NDAs were signed, apparently), but despite entering uncharted territory, we can't wait to do it again.
So that your first time won't be a rocky time, here's our guide of what to expect when sleeping with a Virgin...Hotel.
(Not in the mood to read? Just look at the photos, you pervert you.)
APPROACHING THE VIRGIN: The Virgin Hotels Chicago is located at 203 N. Wabash, right on the corner of Wabash and Lake. Just up the block is the Hotel Monaco and two blocks past that is the Chicago Riverwalk (and one block past that are the Trump and Langham Hotels.) Getting to the hotel from the airport is incredibly easy. Just take the Blue Line on the CTA from O'Hare and you'll be dropped off at Clark/Lake, which is about three blocks from the hotel. We walked the walk while dragging a suitcase and it was totally fine. Luckily, the weather was "warm", around 30 degrees. When it's negative 30 degrees, you may just want to Uber from the CTA stop.
ADMIRING THE VIRGIN: As we got closer to the hotel, our heart skipped a beat when the bright red neon VIRGIN HOTELS sign came into view. Although Miss Ricky's All-American Diner and Two Zero Three coffee shop, the restaurants that bookend the entrance, are not opened yet, the well-lit property gave off a bustling vibe. We hardly noticed the historic architecture of the building, that is, until we stepped inside where amongst all the modern socializing spaces, it was clear this place had a long history before. (Look up at the ceiling and you'll see the original and ornate ceiling tiles, uncovered by Virgin.)
SAYING HELLO: The first person you will see before stepping inside the Virgin is a doorman, who will welcome you inside. Once you get inside, though, you will see an Ambassador, a lovely lady dressed in a bright red Virgin-colored, floor-length coat with a black faux fur hat. She will show you to either the red-carpeted stairwell, leading up to the second floor social spot, The Commons Club, or towards the check-in desk. She will also show you where your four-legged friend can wait--in a mod Union Jack pet pod at the bottom of the stairs--while you check-in.)
Virgin Hotels / Hotel Openings / Sir Richard Branson / Hotel News / New Hotels / Chicago Hotels / New Hotel Smell / → All Tags
That's right. Tonight we are going all the way with the Virgin Hotel Chicago and you're going to watch!
Here's a look inside a deluxe king room at the hotel. It is very true to the press photo that was released earlier today, although we have found a few unexpected surprises--like a cherry red SMEG mini-fridge which serves as the minibar, the Red Flower toiletries in the bath, the rug which pays homage to London, and the proprietary bed, which reminds a bit of Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic. Yes, this means we will probably go to sleep thinking about Sir Richard Branson. Which is really just like any other night. #amirite?
Now, we're about to head downstairs to the The Commons Club to observe the social scene and have a bite to eat. If we're not too
drunk full, we'll have more photos of the public spaces to show you later tonight. Otherwise, we'll have a grand tour for you tomorrow on Monday. And we'll let you know how this little Virgin performed. Wink, wink.
At long frickin' last, opening day for the first-ever Virgin Hotel Chicago is here...and this is what a guest rooms looks like, as shown in a press photo. Our initial reaction, OMG. OMG. OMG.
Raul Leal, CEO of Virgin Hotels told us nearly a year ago that Virgin Hotels would be catering to women, saying that Virgin would be especially in tune with women business travelers (also Virgin gave their mobile app a girl's name) but still, we had no idea how feminine this room would be.
Look at that soft grey vanity and matching chair! Look at those bubbled table legs! Hello lighted mirror! And look at the carpet! Check out the pink dress in the closet! Notice that stylish petite desk to work on!
Clearly, we have a lot to say here but we're reserving our thoughts until we actually step inside the Virgin later today. While the rooms and the Commons Club lobby lounge are open, a few of the other spaces including the restaurants are not quite ready. Still, we'll do our best to scope them all out. We promise to leave no Virgin unclothed, er, unturned.
Stay tuned on HotelChatter.com for more pics and observations. If you aren't already following us on social media, find us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (the latter is where we will be posting most of our snapshots during our stay.)
But who cares what we think? TELL US YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE ROOM IN COMMENTS BELOW
[Photo: Virgin Hotels]