A hip hotel on the cheap.
Situated in a 1926 art deco gem in the heart of Chicago’s Gold Coast district, PUBLIC is the first hotel to be launched in Ian Schrager’s new ‘budget boutique’ hotel line – or as he puts it ‘essential luxury’, don’t mind the contradiction. Hotelier and real estate magnate Schrager made his name – and notoriety – as co-owner of Studio 54 way-back-when before pioneering the boutique hotel concept with Morgans, New York, in the 1980′s.
Prior to its opening we – cycnics that we are – figured Schrager was simply cashing in on the trend led by hipster hotel groups such as the ACE, Mexico’s Grupo Habita or the German 25Hours. And maybe he is. But fortunately Schrager has been around long enough to know that 60-something year old men do not look good in skinny, low-hung pants and Public has wisely avoided the ironic quirkiness and cooler-than-thou attitude of, say, the ACE. The hotel’s photogenic communal areas – bar, lobby, library – have been blasted with enough of Schrager’s trademark OTT design to optimise the glam-wow-slash-buzz factor. In contrast the hotel rooms are kook-free, more neutral and grown-up friendly, we like the retention of some deco detailing such as wainscoting and in some case, even fireplaces.
Thumbs Up: To all reports, the hotel is not just a pretty face and the Public is getting rave reviews about its service – which doesn’t surprise us too much given the innate hospitality of the Mid-West. The Pump Room restaurant and bar is also winning fans. Something of a Chicago icon, it was hard to mess with the Pump Room with its old-timey glamour, portraits of regulars a la Sinatra, Bogart etc without p***ing people off. No doubt some regulars are still muttering into their baseball caps and find its current incarnation a tokenistic travesty but while we’re always sad to see nostalgia go, we can’t miss what we never knew, and word is people are happy with the reworked spaces and inclusive menu. Note, Booth ‘Number One’ previously reserved for mega celebrities has been preserved and retains the original telephone dating from the time when big-wigs were so big they could even use a phone at the dining table. (Confession: I stole that crack from the NYT.)
Tips: If you’re thinking of a quiet night in on the weekend, don’t expect to have the joint to yourself – Friday and Saturday nights draw in the local eye candy looking to party. On the upside, you don’t have to go out!
Room to improve: The primary issue seems to be sound travelling through the walls of some rooms, and the size of the smaller category rooms (though the latter seems a bit nit-picky given the prices). As always, avoid rooms close to the elevators if you can. Is there anybody on the planet who doesn’t like the convenience of enjoying the odd hot beverage in their room? We thought not. For this reason we lament the lack of kettle facilities.
We like: Complimentary bikes! Free Wi-Fi in the rooms. (Thank goodness for common sense.)
Location: The hotel is situated in the upmarket residential Gold Coast district, a 20 minute walk to the Magnificent Mile – add a further 20 minutes to reach Millennium Park. It’s just a few blocks from the Lake Michigan beach where you can meander, jog or cycle along the Lakefront trail – borrow a free bike from the hotel. Nearby attractions: architecture fans may like to drop in for a tour of the beautifully restored Charnley–Persky House, designed by architect Louis Sullivan and a young draftsman he just happened to have working in the office by the name of Frank Lloyd Wright. Window shop your preferred mansion in the nearby Astor Street district.
Rates: Currently starting from $135, Public definitely undercuts the competition on the lower-priced room categories. Note: as usual, the smaller the cost of the room, the smaller the room.
Booking: Contact the Public Hotel Chicago
Alternative Chicago hotels: You might also like to check out our review of the Monaco Hotel situated on the Chicago River downtown. Other options include: the The James, Chicago’s luxe offering in the design hotel category. The Sax Chicago Hotel which has a sort of eccentric glam rock sensibility. Or The Affina which is chic and lovely without trying too hard.
Lullaby: Dream big as you fall asleep to this dreamy soundscape by Chicago-based Panda Riot.