When the competition on the ice ended last week in Boston with the Blackhawks hoisting the Stanley Cup trophy, the competition among Chicago's trendiest hangouts began.
American Junkie co-owner Bradley Parker said he texted three Blackhawks players to congratulate them right after their team's victory and invite them to celebrate at his River North neighborhood sports bar. Harry Caray's Restaurant Group CEO Grant DePorter said restaurateurs tried to lure the team away from Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse in Rosemont — where the team celebrated after arriving at O'Hare Airport Tuesday, just like it did immediately after its 2010 Stanley Cup victory — but didn't name names.
Can you blame them?
Many remember exactly where the Blackhawks players celebrated their previous title. That's why there were fans and camera crews waiting outside Harry Caray's in Rosemont, and the Pony in the city, before the team even arrived at O'Hare (the Blackhawks visited the Pony right after Harry Caray's in 2010 but this time opted for the Scout in the South Loop, leaving many outside the Pony disappointed).
DePorter said his restaurant was chosen again because of the restaurant group's strong ties to the team. In addition to catering several Blackhawks flights, current Blackhawk Patrick Kane and former Blackhawk Bobby Hull are investors in Harry Caray's Navy Pier location. It also helps that the Rosemont restaurant is close to O'Hare and possesses a rare liquor license that allows it to serve alcohol before 7 a.m. on special occasions. The Blackhawks contacted Harry Caray's the day after tying the series 2-2 to begin planning a potential Stanley Cup celebration, according to DePorter. How did this celebration at Harry Caray's compare with the last one?
"There were 300 to 400 fans outside last time and more like 2,000 fans this time," DePorter said. "Also, the first time they won, (team members) sat in the bar area and never went to the buffet area. Now that they're experts and know there is a long day ahead, they went straight for the food this time."
That long day included stops at Market, Rockit Bar & Grill, Bub City and American Junkie, and then crowd-surfing at Board Room in the early hours of Wednesday. Unlike at Harry Caray's, each of those establishments was given a heads-up only hours in advance (or, in the case of Bub City, five minutes), usually in the form of a text from a player. Parker said his staff had three hours to prepare, which included readying every bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne American Junkie had.
"It's amazing press for us," said Parker, who was paid another visit by the Blackhawks on Thursday. "We've only been open 10 weeks. There are a lot of people who had never heard of us. But if you follow the Hawks, you now might know they visited American Junkie twice last week."
Asked who decided where the team visited, Parker said "(Jonathan) Toews calls the shots — he's the captain. When (Viktor) Stalberg texted me, he said '75 percent of the team wants to come to American Junkie, but Toews is the one who has to confirm it.'"
The Blackhawks declined to comment.
Ben Galatz, director of operations of Roof in the Wit Hotel, said Toews and Pete Hassen, Blackhawks senior executive director of marketing and fan development, were the ones who let him know five hours in advance that they would be stopping by Wednesday. "I'm sure there's definitely a healthy competition," Galatz said of businesses jockeying to bring in Blackhawks players in the wake of their title. "We're fortunate we have a great relationship with a lot of the guys."
Not surprisingly, the Blackhawks players rarely had to buy their own drinks at Roof or any other stop on their victory tour. Galatz said the team went through "quite a bit" of 6-liter bottles of Moet champagne, worth $1,000 each, all of which were on the house. Board Room spokeswoman Jess Winters said the club gave the players a $15,000 bottle of Ace of Spades as a gift. The bill was high at American Junkie as well, but Parker was more than happy to pick up the check.
"We gave them over $20,000 in champagne," Parker said. "We're a sports bar. These guys going the distance (in the playoffs) was amazing business for us. It's the least we can do."
Heads up: Imagine Dragons and Icona Pop will perform July 31 at the seventh annual Nelarusky benefit at Metro. General admission tickets for Nelarusky — which has raised more than $150,000 for Special Olympics Illinois — are sold out, but there are VIP tickets still available.
Sightings: "Star Wars" director George Lucas and his new wife Mellody Hobson dined Wednesday at Paris Club while in town for their wedding reception at Promontory Point. Robin Williams ("Good Will Hunting"), who attended the wedding, had lunch Saturday at Coco Pazzo Cafe. … Singer Jimmy Buffett and David Schwimmer ("Friends") dined separately Friday at Sunda. … Eva Longoria ("Desperate Housewives") was honored Thursday by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Hispanic Executive magazine at the Hilton Chicago hotel. She had lunch at Coco Pazzo that same day. … John Cusack ("Hot Tub Time Machine") celebrated his birthday Friday with family, including sister Joan Cusack ("Shameless"), and friends at Chicago Cut Steakhouse. John Cusack opted for Siena Tavern Saturday. … The Bulls' Derrick Rose made an appearance at the launch party for Rich Girl Candy, an online consignment store, June 23 at Jellyfish. … Run DMC rapper Darryl "DMC" McDaniels worked out June 22 at Equinox in the Gold Coast. … Country singer Vince Gill had dinner Thursday at Bella Notte. … Joel Murray ("God Bless America") emceed the Hot Stove Cool Music benefit concert June 21 at Metro, which raised more than $150,000 for Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein's Foundation To Be Named Later and the Boston marathon victims' One Fund. … The Dallas Mavericks' Shawn Marion had dinner Wednesday at Japonais.