Last call for Pump Room?

January 5, 2010 3:28:36 PM PST
After more than 70 years of serving Hollywood starlets and Chicago socialites, Pump Room is said to be scaling back.The Chicago restaurant located in the Ambassador East Hotel opened in 1938 and was an instant hit with celebrities due to its elegant design, high-end food and glamorous presentation. Waiters-- dressed in satin-- served meat on swords to their customers. It was the place to be and where the famous came when they came to Chicago.

Booth No. 1 was reserved for celebrities- from Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who toasted their wedding there, to Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra, both restaurant regulars. According to the restaurant's website,, Mel Brooks personally greeted each guest while sitting at Booth No.1 and Paul Newman and Robert Redford lunched on ham sandwiches while shooting "The Sting."

The stars -- including Irv Kupcinet with his powerful Kup's Column-- helped hyped the Pump Room. He'd party in Booth No. 1 at night and write about who was there in the paper the next day. Sooner or later everybody who was somebody was there.

Dutchie Caray and her late husband, Harry, spent a lot of time at Pump Room in 70s and 80s.

"We did have a lot of fun at the Pump Room with a lot of people. One night I remember we were in the Pump Room. We were in Booth No. 1. That was the Big Booth ... and guess who comes in? Essie and Kup ... and that was their booth. She was not too happy about it ? Harry wasn't about to get up, I'll tell you that," said Dutchie Caray, widow of Harry Caray. "Yeah we stayed."

But now that glamour might be going away. Tough economic times have chipped away at the restaurant, which will close its 225-seat dining room-- except for special occasions, according to the "Chicago Sun-Times." However, the bar will remain open and offer a bistro menu. A New York company is reportedly interested in buying the Ambassador East Hotel.

It's an era that probably will never return.

"Nobody wants to get dressed up. You had to wear a coat and tie in the Pump Room or you couldn't go in," said Caray.

It's still not official. But if it's true, the Pump Room is another victim of changing times.