GOLD COAST — Restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff laid out his plans to restore the iconic Maxim's restaurant to its 1960s glory Wednesday night, pledging not to let the refurbished eatery fall the way of the Pump Room.
Sodikoff plans to recreate the ins and outs of the former swanky restaurant in the basement of the Astor Tower, originally built as a replica of the iconic Maxim's de Paris.
"It was probably one of the most significant restaurants of all time," Sodikoff said of the original Maxim's, built in 1893 in Paris.
The Chicago Maxim's was built 50 years ago, designed by renowned architect Bertrand Goldberg and operated by his wife, Nancy.
The decadent interior of the legendary restaurant features a grand piano beneath a spiral staircase entryway.
The booths are covered in velvet, the intricate wood molding is dark, while gold fleur-de-lis covers the walls, and the color red is dominant throughout.
"This is where everyone came after black-tie and white-tie events," said Gold Coast resident Elizabeth Justine. "It was a place of connections."
Justine reminisced of her nights spent in the back room. During the '60s and '70s, it was a disco and "the" place to be, but Sodikoff has plans to turn it into a bar and parlor area.
"It was a place of romance," Justine said.
For Sodikoff, the opportunity to bring back the historic restaurant at 1300 N. Astor St. is a flashback to his days as a young chef in Paris, where he studied.
He walked by it each day on his way to work at one of his first jobs.
"I would always hear the stories of Maxim's," he said at a community meeting Wednesday night. "I stepped foot in it once. Being a cook, I didn't really have any money to dine there, but I did stick my head in and look at it."
Neighbors of the restaurant say they heard a similar tale from the group that revamped the Public Hotel and the similarly who's who-filled Pump Room of the '60s and '70s.
Since its renovation in 2011, the Pump Room has turned from a throwback to a "frat house," according to neighbors who call it a nuisance that attracts a loud crowd.
One neighbor complained that people were having sex in cars outside his home near the establishment.
The Pump Room did not return requests for comment on this story.
Sodikoff told the crowded room that he would rather close than "operate how they operate."
"I think that space has so much potential. They absolutely ruined it," he said. "They did a disservice to something that was beautiful, that was historic, that was a wonderful property. They ruined it."
Sodikoff reassured the room that the fine-dining restaurant that he has in mind would not attract the same customers that are frequenting the Public Hotel and Pump Room.
"We don’t want to be a late-night bar. We don’t want to be a destination bar," Sodikoff said. "The idea is to bring back to life this historic place with the same spirit that it was built with."
The restaurateur, who runs five outposts in the city, including Gilt Bar, Au Cheval, Maude's Liquor Bar and Bavette's, is in the process of finalizing the deal to buy Maxim's from the city, according to Ald. Michele Smith (43rd).
The deal will pay the city, which owns the property, $1.37 million for the restaurant, which closed in 1982. Several restaurateurs failed in their attempts to open restaurants in the location, WBEZ wrote in June, and the Goldbergs' children decided to give the space to the city in 2000.
Since then, it has been used by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for private meetings and events.
Then donation stipulated that the city's use of the restaurant expired after 10 years. It was appraised at $1.36 million.
"I was completely shocked at how well-preserved the space was," Sodikoff said. "It's a really special space, at least for me."