Dish Flash: Ian Schrager’s Plans for the Ambassador East and the Pump Room—Public and Jean-Georges Vongerichten

No one knew exactly what to expect when Ian Schrager bought the Ambassador East hotel (1301 N. State Pkwy.), home of The Pump Room, the most famous restaurant in the city for decades. Dish got a look at the official release on the project. The hotel will be called Public, and it will emphasize service over extravagance. The restaurant will still be called The Pump Room, and, confirming the unconfirmed rumors Dish had been hearing…

No one knew exactly what to expect when Ian Schrager bought the Ambassador East hotel (1301 N. State Pkwy.), home of The Pump Room, the most famous restaurant in the city for decades. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall celebrated their wedding at the bastion of luxury, and it was a filming location for North by Northwest.
 
Dish got a look at the official release on the project. The hotel will be called Public, and it will emphasize service over extravagance. The restaurant will still be called The Pump Room, and, confirming the unconfirmed rumors Dish had been hearing since mid-April, the food will be created by the superstar chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who is well known for his large stable of well-starred restaurants, including Jean Georges and last year’s James Beard winner for best new restaurant, ABC Kitchen. (UPDATE: Our follow-up interview with Ian Schrager reveals more details about the new Pump Room and confirms a planned September 12 opening.)
 
Here’s what we learned from the release:
 
Schrager is aiming for Public to be stylish and have great service, but not at high prices.

Release: Its fundamental attributes are innovative, sophisticated, authentic style; spot-on, personalized empathic “essential” service that makes people feel special; lasting comfort with complete functionality, all at a tremendous value. For the first time, this type of hotel experience will be available for everyone and anyone who wants it. What is unusual is that it is inclusive, rather than exclusive.
 
The Pump Room under Jean-Georges will resemble ABC Kitchen.

Release: The restaurant will offer reasonably priced, delicious favorites in a relaxed, comfortable environment. Jean-Georges will also support local purveyors and regional flavors and offer a “farm to table” experience as well as a daily special chef’s tasting menu of the most unique creations. At night, the restaurant’s bar will be transformed into a supper club recapturing the glamour of the thirties and forties with a modern twist. Offerings will include light tapas-style food including Asian specialties, exotic cocktails, and great music.
 
The hotel will contain public spaces called “chat rooms” designed to promote social interaction between guests and locals.

Release: Public Chicago’s “chat rooms” known as the Living Room and the Library will juxtapose comfortable, intimate seating areas with communal work tables and computer stations. Reminiscent of 1950s American and European coffee houses and French patisseries, The Library will house a coffee bar during the day, offering Stumptown coffee with an array of coffee selections from around the world. By night, the Library is transformed into a sexy lounge and bar offering a full bar, draft beer, international bottled beers, specialty cocktails, and small-plated exotic food by Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
 
Public’s décor will be understated.

Release: Schrager maintained the existing structure and architectural details and infused what he felt was new and modern aspects to evoke a warm, personal style. The spacious guest rooms and suites, as well as all of the public spaces, exemplify the “sincere chic” Schrager refers to. In “no-color colors” and a smart mix of modern pieces in unexpected combinations, the hotel reflects an aesthetic that cannot be classified because it is so personal.
 
Remember that cool kid in high school who liked things literally no one else liked—he was so different that he was cool? That’s what Schrager wants Public to be.

Release: Schrager, who is now anti-design and anti-flash, suspicious of the “wow factor” and completely “sick of slick,” has pared down and edited the design for Public Chicago. It is confident, self-assured, genuine, and grounded, with no tricks or gimmicks. The new approach was spearheaded by his longtime design team headed by partner Anda Andrei. “There is no pretense here, just effortless, timeless, purist design providing a relaxed vibe and familiar atmosphere that feels like home,” says Schrager. “We are trying not to be hip. We are in fact anti-hip, and therefore by definition, we are [hip].”
 
Public won’t offer every service luxury hotels have previously offered—Schrager is choosing only the essential ones.

Release: The brand [Public] will only offer services that matter: those that guests really want and need, rather than an array of superfluous services they do not use. For Schrager, this marks a new approach devoid of excess and a rejection of the old-fashioned idea of what defines “luxury” and what it actually means to people.
 
Schrager thinks luxury hotels are stuck in the past, which would be a pretty good description of The Pump Room near the end, actually.

Release: Schrager is responding to what he feels is a stagnated, anachronistic, and sleepy hotel industry that has become predictable, banal, conformist, marbleized, and computerized. It has lost touch with its customers, again. Its traditions and formulas have become outdated.
 
Lower-priced, high-service hotels as the paragons of cool are the wave of the future, Schrager thinks.

Release: “Luxury,” says Schrager, “is no longer about spending the most money. It is about getting the best value and being made to feel special. This is not in response to difficult economic times—it is a true paradigm shift.”

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