GOLD COAST — You know what they say about Chicago girls who love those fancy red-soled shoes?
Well, me neither.
But every Monday night, ladies fond of Christian Louboutin, the footwear favored by movie stars, flock to Tavern on Rush for a chance to win the coveted ladies night raffle grand prize — a pair of the French pumps.
For the fashion uninformed, Christian Louboutin shoes — “Loubs” for short — are the Air Jordans of sexy formal footwear — only way more expensive, with some costing thousands of dollars a pair.
Ladies, according to people who know about these things, celebrate Loubs for their sleek lines, sexy heels and those signature red soles that make them the ultimate “party on your feet.”
And the reason Tavern owner Marty Gutilla can proudly say he's got the “most jumping joint in town on Monday nights” is simple — to paraphrase Mars Blackmon in that iconic Air Jordan commercial — It's gotta be the Loubs.
“I’ve never met a woman in my life who doesn’t love shoes,” Gutilla said. “Even women who don’t go overboard shopping still seem to have a weakness, and it’s always, always shoes.”
And that was Gutilla’s inspiration when he decided to raffle off those first few pairs of Loubs — enticingly on display in a glass box behind the bar at 1031 N. Rush St. all week — every Monday night in October.
In no time, ladies night at Tavern on Rush was the place for fashionable ladies to sip wine, nosh on $7 shrimp cocktails and stare at the glorious Loubs — kept in a case that spun like a music box ballerina at the center of the horseshoe bar — while Monday Night Football played on TV.
“Every Monday night we had about 100 raffle entries — 80 women and 20 men — waiting to win,” Gutilla said. “Name me another place where there’s 80 women on a Monday night. And if a guy wins the shoes, you better believe that all the women boo him.”
After those first successful evenings in October there was nothing — not even brutal winter weather — that would keep Gutilla from raffling off the $1,000 French high heels on Monday nights thereafter.
“When the polar vortex hit, and it was 40-below on Jan. 6, I got a call from the manager saying they were going to just cancel the raffle. I said, ‘Don’t cancel anything. Tell everyone you know this will be their best chance at winning,’” he said. “And guess what? They came out. I know what I’m doing.”
Gutilla, a veteran club and restaurateur, certainly does. In fact, he’s had plenty of practice creating crowds on otherwise slow nights at joints he’s owned.
Back in the early '90s, Gutilla had flocks of ladies lined up at his former Division Street nightclub, Eddie Rockets, with a Wednesday night diamond ring giveaway that ran for more than two years.
“Women like diamonds, right? What can I say? I couldn’t get everyone in the place it was so popular,” he said. “Diamonds didn’t seem right for [Tavern.] So, I thought what do women like as much as diamonds? Shoes. And it seems like it’s the right fit for this place.”
On a recent Monday night, Mollie Dolcimascolo and Kathleen Schwantz were proof that Gutilla's some kind of genius.
"We came for the shoes," they said almost in unison.
"I love them. Look at them — they're so beautiful," Dolcimascolo said. "Girls love anything that sparkles."
"And champagne," Schwantz said.
Their pal Jonathan Speh, who recently became a married man, said Loubs, er, Ladies Night at Tavern On Rush, is exactly the kind of place that his "degenerate friends want to come because so many ladies are here for the shoes."
That’s all part of Gutilla’s master plan, of course.
“Guys have been following around women for 5 million years. Why wouldn’t they follow them here on a Monday night?” he said. “That’s how it works and will always work. It’s a good formula."