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Chicago’s famed Signature Room has abruptly closed, citing ‘unexpected challenges’ in the Windy City. A message posted to the restaurant’s Facebook and Instagram accounts Thursday announced the closure – which comes as police continue to fight a flagrant crime wave that has persisted since the pandemic, particularly in the city’s Downtown.

The iconic fine dining restaurant opened more than 30 years ago, and could be found on the 95th and 96th floors of the former John Hancock Center. A place to pop the question, enjoy a scenic dinner, or celebrate a special occasion, today the posh eatery is no more – with a note plastered in the lobby of the 100-floor skyscraper now turning patrons away. Aside from the disclaimer, a memo was reportedly sent to the staff citing ‘safety issues and negative publicity’ surrounding the city as reasons – in addition to ‘severe economic hardship’ after it was forced to close for over a year during the pandemic.

Another reason, aired in a memo obtained by NBC Chicago, said the closing was due to failed talks over the restaurant’s lease, with restaurateurs Richard Roman and Nick Pyknis writing that new lease terms could not be [successfully] renegotiated. A statement to patrons on the company’s website elaborated on the explanation posted by the owner near the building’s elevators – though made no mention of the ‘safety issues’ cited in the alleged correspondence, first reported by Crain’s.

It reads: ‘After over three decades of creating cherished memories, it is with profound sadness that we announce the permanent closure of the iconic Signature Room at the 95th, effective Thursday, September 28, 2023. For over 30 years, we have had the privilege and honor of serving Chicagoans and visitors from all over the world. Together, we’ve marked countless life moments – from heartwarming engagements to milestone anniversaries. Unfortunately, after the closure of our city and restaurant due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been faced with severe economic hardship and the challenges have been greater than we anticipated,’ it continues. These factors, beyond our control, have left us with no choice but to close our doors. Though this chapter ends, our gratitude for your unwavering support remains steadfast.Every meal served, every toast raised, and every memory made was possible because of you.’

The emotional message echoed one erected inside the building, renamed 875 North Michigan Avenue in 2018, that also blamed the close on its 14-month COVID closure. ‘From the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank you for the support over the years,’ it adds, conceding the announcement comes ‘with a heavy heart’. Roman and Pyknis – who ran the restaurant since its first service in 1993 – further told longtime patrons: ‘We are eternally grateful for the trust you placed in us to be part of your special moments. We appreciate your patience as we navigate this unexpected challenge. We will do our best to reach out and address all questions.’

Crain’s, which broke the news that the restaurant closed, wrote in its coverage the closure that the restaurateurs sent a memo sent to staff citing ‘safety issues and negative publicity’ currently plaguing the city of Chicago as reasons for the closure. The memo reportedly obtained by NBC Chicago, meanwhile, put the blame on unspecified new lease terms, which, the pair reportedly wrote, will ‘not [allow] us to continue our mission at the place we all love. ‘As a result, we are forced to close our doors,’ the memo said. The restaurant was one of many to close in the then-Lori Lightfoot led city during lockdowns caused by the coronavirus, only opening its doors in May 2021.

In the span since, the metro has been subject to a rampant crime wave that’s seen its police force cycle through four police superintendents and now two mayors – after Lightfoot, a progressive elected in 2019, lost her bid for re-election. Beaten by relative unknown Brandon Johnson back in February, she continues to face ire from fed-up citizens over the city’s current state, which deteriorated during the pandemic and has since failed to recover. Johnson – another liberal who win a tough runoff in April in the process – has since managed to bring down crime statistics marginally, but a months long array of incidents and statements from various city and state officials suggest the city is still unsafe.

‘Police are handcuffed, police are demoralized, and we are seeing it play out in the streets of Chicago day in and day out,’ former Rep. Jim Durkin told NBC Chicago this week, after House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan’s called a hearing on crime. The meeting, officials afterwards said, focused on the so-called political failings of John’s predecessor, which Jordan on Tuesday insisted have contributed to the city’s continued crisis. ‘If you stop to think about it, it was “defund the police” under the former mayor,’ the Ohio Republican said. ‘Now it’s the SAFE-T act, then it’s a prosecutor who won’t prosecute the bad guys, all that leads to the situation we see today.’

Officials from both parties have slammed ‘lawlessness’ seen in the city under Lightfoot, after she made the controversial decision to slash $59million from the Chicago Police Department budget in 2020 during protests for Defund the Police – a movement that Johnson supports. Lightfoot, meanwhile, instead of addressing the city’s notorious gun violence, made it a point during her time in office to give herself a 5 percent raise, despite having a salary well over $200,000. She also raised salary thresholds for not only her position, but the city clerk and treasurer as well, shortly after performing an abrupt about-face on the Defund the Police policy she campaigned on in August of 2021, amid increasing crime and walkouts by the city’s peace officers.

Compounding the unrest at the time, as Jordan on Tuesday mentioned, were riots by Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police supporters – movements that both Lightfoot and more recently Johnson celebrated during their respective campaigns. Johnson, a resident of the West Side, has also raised eyebrows with a lofty plan to reallocate law enforcement funds to other services in the wake of the 2020 murder of Floyd – whereas Months before, Lightfoot performed an abrupt about-face on that policy amid increasing crime – after slashing the force’s budget by $59million. The Lightfoot-led plan – ironically dubbed ‘refund the police’ – saw the sum reabsorbed into the city’s budget.

Still, the series actions has fallen flat in addressing the city’s ongoing crime epidemic – one that has the Chicago Police Department appoint three new superintendents since April of 2020, when the current crime wave – consisting largely of broad daylight robberies and unapologetic gun violence – began. The first, former officer David Brown, lasted the longest, with a nearly three-year tenure after being appointed by Lightfoot as one of her first moves in office. A controversial leader who reportedly lost the confidence of multiple police supervisors during his stint, he resigned after Lightfoot’s surprise loss before being replaced by Eric Carter, who is now being replaced by Johnson appointee Larry Snelling.

A longtime CPD insider and South Side native, he is tasked with rejuvenating officer morale and repairing community relations after a disastrous three-and-half years. Meanwhile, crime – particularly in the city’s Downtown where the Hancock Center is located – continues, with three broad daylight robberies occurring just four miles away in a span of 10 minutes on Tuesday. In another incident that same day on the 1700 block of North Western, a group of masked, armed men were filmed hijacking a vehicle – an incident that has remained all too common in recent months.

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