Hofbräuhaus Chicago's eight-year run in Rosemont's entertainment district ended this week, with the cavernous German beer hall space set to be replaced, at least partially, by a craft pizza and beer bar.
Crust, expected to take up 14,000 square feet of the 20,000-square-foot building in Parkway Bank Park, will be the creation of father-and-son restaurateurs Joe and Mike Matuschka, who opened the Hofbräuhaus franchise in Rosemont in January 2013.
Amid COVID-19 capacity limits, Hofbräuhaus poured its last stein and fried its last schnitzel Sunday night.
"It's been challenging trying to serve this concept. It's a very, very expensive product to put out," Mike Matuschka said. "People just aren't eating heavy German fare like they used to. I think we could be much more profitable. The pandemic is the straw that broke the camel's back."
"For six weeks a year, it is the best place around," Matuschka said of Oktoberfest. "But those six weeks don't cover the others."
The Matuschkas have been talking in recent months with Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens about reducing the size of the restaurant footprint to improve their bottom line. Proposed revisions to their redevelopment agreement calls for the Matuschkas to buy a portion of the building and land they now lease from the village, and convert the space into the new pizza bar. That agreement could be approved by the village board as soon as Monday.
Stephens said the rest of the building would be siphoned off and sold to other users, but plans haven't yet been finalized.
The new restaurant/bar is planned for the south side of the Hofbräuhaus building, where the existing brewing equipment will stay in place. Brewmaster Rob Hunter also will remain on staff and produce a rotating selection of craft beers.
"For the last eight years, he's been following a recipe from Munich. Now he gets to explore his own creations," said Matuschka, who noted that a German-style lager will still be part of the beer list.
Work crews doing interior renovations this winter and spring will build an open kitchen concept, where patrons seated at the bar and tables will be able to watch chefs make and bake pizzas in two large ovens, Matuschka said.
About a dozen pizzas will be on the menu -- each individually-sized at 12 inches -- but can be shared. You'll also be able to make your own, Matuschka said.
"Everyone is doing these Neapolitan-inspired pizzas," he said. "We're gonna be doing Neapolitan American-styled pizzas."
Pizzas and growlers of beer will be available for carryout. Appetizers, salads and light entrees are also part of the menu.
An opening is scheduled for sometime this summer, perhaps as early as June.
"One of the typical challenges I have of opening a restaurant is being crunched for time," Matuschka said. But in light of the pandemic, "this is the first time I'm opening a restaurant where I'm not in a hurry to open."