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Report: Planned Demolition Could Wipe Out Jilly’s, Back Room On Rush Street

Jilly's

Jilly’s, 1007 N. Rush St., and its neighbor, the Back Room jazz club, may be demolished to make way for a new building. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The golden age of entertainment on Rush Street is long in the past, but the strip still hosts some nightclubs and music venues that keep that bygone era alive.

Now, according to a published report, two of those nightspots might be wiped off the map.

The Chicago Sun-Times’ David Roeder reported Tuesday evening that Jilly’s and the Back Room, both located in a three-story building at 1007 N. Rush St., would have to close if the owner of the building has her way.

Investor Grace Sergio has proposed tearing down the building, which also includes four apartments, and replacing it with a two-story structure hosting one retail or commercial tenant, Roeder reported.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) recently outlined the plan in an e-mail to constituents, Roeder reported.

Nick Ftikas, the attorney representing Sergio, tells Roeder the owner believes a new retail building is the best use for the property, and that she is seeking an international clothing property to take over the space.

Sergio is the wife of James Banks, a zoning attorney who is part-owner of the Tavern on Rush steak and seafood restaurant, up the block at 1031 N. Rush St., Roeder reported.

Back in the 1960s, Rush Street was known as Chicago’s premier nightlife district. Among the most famous establishments was Mister Kelly’s – which operated in the current Gibson’s Steakhouse space from 1953 until 1975 and hosted performers from Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand to Carly Simon and Mama Cass Elliot.

Rush Street also hosted the Singapore Room restaurant, the Faces disco club, the Happy Medium Cabaret Theatre, and the Carnegie Theatre – which hosted the first Chicago International Film Festival.

But nightlife on Rush Street declined in the 1970s, and high-end boutiques have largely taken the place of nightclubs – although many of the city’s most fashionable restaurants remain on the strip. The remaining nightlife on Rush Street is now traditionally paired with the fraternity-style singles bars and clubs on nearby Division Street as the “Rush and Division” district, even though Rush and Division streets never actually meet.

The Back Room jazz club is a holdout from the old Rush Street, in business since the late 1960s. Jilly’s opened in 1995 in a space previously occupied by Remington’s and the Gold Coast Lounge, and became one of the city’s most popular piano bars.

Property records indicate that the building that houses Jilly’s and the Back Room was built in 1881 — just 10 years after the Great Chicago Fire.