Berghoff – How To Demolish

You have to know how the enemy works.

I always tell my students how to demolish a beloved landmark, and I always use a particular example of one of the oldest buildings in the Loop and one of its beloved icons.

The example became true today, but in truth it has been obvious for years. Berghoff’s announced they were closing February 28 after 107 years, mostly in the little 1872 buildings on West Adams. They did not announce they will try to demolish the landmark buildings – but they will. In about two years.

The ploy is obvious. To demolish one of only two cast-iron Italianates in Chicago and a rare surviving post-Fire building, the first thing you do is get rid of the beloved icon – the restaurant with its traditions. The daughter, Carlyn Berghoff, is reopening the bar under a new name and using the restaurant space for her catering business. For about two years.

You see, two years from now, the bar and catering business will not be the solid moneymakers they are today, and the Berghoffs can whinge to the city that they must demolish the building for a high-rise because they are losing money. They aren’t losing money now – it is an extremely successful business.

This is why they aren’t offering the business for sale: then they would lose the real estate. In order to cash in on the real estate, they need to trash the business first.

That also helps in the public relations realm because then you don’t have a ready audience trying to stop you from demolishing the business. You can even try to ice the deal by closing the bar for a year and put in a discount dollar store on the site. Then the public will urge you to demolish the building.

This is what the Berghoff announced today: They are going to try to cash in on their land and demolish an extremely rare Chicago landmark.


7 Responses to “Berghoff – How To Demolish”

  1. Sarah Polster Says:

    Seriously? You really think so? And you mean December 28th, right, not February? Happy New Year, Vince.

  2. pat allen Says:

    Thanks Vince,
    I have been reading about the demise of Berghoff and wondering how on earth no one was buying the business. It does all make sad sense.

  3. Neil Steinberg Says:

    Vince —

    Please call me.

    Neil Steinberg
    Chicago Sun-Times

  4. Karla Kaulfuss Says:


    Your supposition about Berghoff is spot on. I was curious about this same possibility and you’ve managed to articulate it perfectly.

    Sad. Very sad.

  5. Martha Frish Says:

    This is a good piece, Vince. How can I help?

  6. Tiara Crouse Says:

    I read this article right after it was posted and was sad and outraged. 2 months later, and 2 days from closure, I’m still sad and mad. Chicago is in the process of actively “forgetting” itself (as in “Forgotten NY” website.) So sorry.

  7. Stephen V Funk Says:

    Greetings fellow Berghoff lover!

    There is a link to this post at The Berghoff Memorial Blog. If you would like it removed, please let me know.

    The Berghoff Memorial Blog is a place to share stories and memories of this beloved eatery. The Berghoff may be gone, but it will never be forgotten.

    Cheers and auf wiedersehen.

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