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Pump Room Set For Grand Reopening

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Pump Room Booth One
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CHICAGO (CBS) — After being shuttered with more than a year and a half, a new and revamped edition of the iconic Pump Room will celebrate its grand reopening Tuesday.

The hotel that houses the Pump Room has undergone a massive transformation, from the Ambassador East to the new and swanky Public Chicago Hotel. But the Pump Room itself retains its legendary name, and its long and storied history.

Hotelier Ian Schrager is behind the renovation of the Pump Room and the Public Chicago Hotel, at 1301 N. State Pkwy. in the Gold Coast.

“It’s very treacherous anytime you try and deal with a icon; something so beloved as the Pump Room is to people of Chicago,” Schrager said Tuesday on the CBS 2 Morning News. “But in reality, we think we returned it to its original grandeur, and it was a lot of fun to work on.”

The space has been modernized with a new and sleek look. Its atmosphere is dominated by a network of lights housed resin globes that hang from steel framework suspended from the ceiling, called “The constellation” by Schrager’s architect, Anda Andrei, according to the New York Times.

But some of the most famous elements of the old Pump Room have been retained. While the original Booth One was donated to the Chicago History Museum more than 30 years ago, a Booth One has been reinstalled – along with the original rotary telephone that used to be mounted in the booth, Schrager said.

Irv Kupcinet met the sources for his legendary column at Booth One at the Pump Room. Booth One was also where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall celebrated their wedding, as did Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood. Frank Sinatra was also a frequent guest at Booth One.

Schrager has also reinstalled another booth in the back that was also used by Sinatra, where he would often ask to have a curtain pulled in front to allow for privacy.

“We actually went back to the way the room was originally designed – the proportions and everything, and actually went back to the way it was done 75 years ago,” Schrager said.

Also still on display are the iconic photographs that greeted people as they walked into the Pump Room for generations.

“They’re in the entrance as you walk in and they’re also downstairs, and we made almost like an art exhibit out of them, because it’s almost a little bit like a time capsule,” Schrager said. “I mean, every major celebrity of the past 50 or 60 years has been to this restaurant.”

The menu is also all new, with a concept by James Beard award-winning chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Meanwhile, look for some striking new features in the lobby of the new Public Chicago, most notably a clock that runs backwards.

“We have fun with what we’re doing, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Schrager said. “I remember seeing the Benjamin Button movie of the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, and we just thought it would be fun to have the clock go backwards, sort of telling everyone that the time doesn’t really mean anything; you’re here to have a good time.”

The hotel features 285 oversized guestrooms and suites, which feature a curated photo collection by Jean-Baptiste Mondino and a curated postcard collection of iconic Chicago jazz musicians and other local personalities.

The Pump Room has a glorious and storied history. It opened in 1938, when founder Ernie Byfield was inspired by another venue called the Pump Room in 18th century Bath, England, where Queen Anne and other London socialites gathered.

Chicago’s Pump Room instantly became a hit for celebrities like future president Ronald Reagan.

Judy Garland included the Pump Room in the lyrics to her song, “Chicago,” where she sings, “We’ll meet at the Pump Room, Ambassador East, to say the least.”

The restaurant features a Great Signature Book, which includes the names Marlene Dietrich and Cole Porter. John Barrymore is reputed to have urinated on the book after drinking too much champagne, according to the Sun-Times.

The Pump Room remained a hangout for the stars well after Byfield died in 1950. During the shooting of “The Sting” in the early 1970s, Robert Redford and Paul Newman dined there on ham sandwiches and pilsners, the Pump Room Web site said last year. Michael J. Fox, Eddie Murphy, Jim Belushi, David Bowie and Mick Jagger have also all paid visits.

And on one occasion, a then-obscure drummer was denied entry for not wearing a jacket, according to the Pump Room Web site. That drummer turned out to be Phil Collins.

In its previous incarnation, the Pump Room closed on Jan. 30, 2010, after a final performance by cabaret singer Nan Mason.

While working on the renovations Schrager asked Chicagoans to vote on whether to keep the Pump Room name or rename the restaurant the Gold Coast kitchen. Voters overwhelmingly went for the old name.

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