CHICAGO (CBS) — Big rumblings behind the scenes at Navy Pier: two major tenants have recently found themselves at odds with the pier, and CBS 2 Morning Insider Tim McNicholas learned one got the boot, while the other is locked out.
Bubba Gump Shrimp is a household name that started as a fictional company in the film Forrest Gump, but the real deal has served shrimp at Navy Pier for more than 20 years.
Jeff Cantwell, chief development officer for Landry’s, the parent company behind the Bubba Gump Shrimp chain, said if it were up to him, they’d be staying at Navy Pier.
“Unfortunately, they didn’t really involve us in the decision-making. They just said our lease was expiring, and they were choosing not to renew it, and they had a new lease with a chef-driven restaurant,” he said.
Cantwell said they’d never missed rent or had any other issues with Navy Pier before.
“We have about 80 hourly employees, and I’m pretty sure most of them have been let go permanently,” Cantwell said.
A spokesperson said Navy Pier is focused on authentic Chicago dining experiences, and the restaurant that will replace Bubba Gump aligns with that, but Navy Pier won’t say just yet who that new partner will be.
We pointed out to Navy Pier that there are other national chains there as well and asked if they’re safe. A spokesperson said the Pier tries to find a balance between popular national brands and Chicago names.
Landry’s is looking into the possibility of opening a new Bubba Gump somewhere else in Chicago, if possible.
Now another seafood restaurant is suing Navy Pier.
Riva Crabhouse claims Navy Pier locked them out because of a dispute over their rent and hours during the pandemic. Cantwell said they’d never missed rent or had any other issues with Navy Pier before
Riva management told CBS 2 they’d still like to return in the spring if they can strike a deal.
Meanwhile, Navy Pier is shutting down for the fall and winter to save on operating costs. CEO Marilynn Garder recently told CBS 2 the nonprofit faces a $20 million deficit this year, even after a $2.5 million PPP loan.
A spokesperson said Gardner herself has taken a 44% pay cut since early May.
The most recent IRS records show she earned about $500,000 in salary and benefits in 2018.
Navy Pier’s decision to move on from Bubba Gump was not related to the pandemic.
As for the situation with Riva, Navy Pier said they can’t comment.