River North won’t be the same without Rockit Bar & Grill, the establishment that ignited a nightlife revolution 15 years ago along Hubbard Street. Last year co-founder Billy Dec departed, leaving co-founder Brad Young to run the downtown mainstay. Now Young and company are grounding Rockit, this time permanently, on Saturday.
Rockit’s been closed before, but Dec, Young, and Arturo Gomez have found a way to relaunch it into orbit. But with two-thirds of the original team gone, Young received an offer he couldn’t refuse. Young told Eater that he made the announcement in late June after talking to staff. He made a social made post on June 24 with the news that they were selling the property at 22 W. Hubbard Street to Friedman Properties.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, but we felt that the opportunity, time, and offer were right, and a deal was made,” Young’s post read.
Young’s post added that they resisted previous overtures to sell. They’ll host an “incredible farewell party” on Saturday.
“I’m so lucky to have worked with some of the most talented people in the restaurant and bar industry and to have served over a million customers during this amazing time,” Young’s post continued. “When we opened in 2004, we took an idea for what we felt was a void in the marketplace and created it in the River North. A decade and a half later, it is now landlocked at ground zero in the hottest entertainment and dining area in Chicago.”
In its heyday, the bar helped make Dec a local celebrity. It led to the start of a restaurant company, Rockit Ranch Productions. Its holdings include the Underground nightclub although the company currently focuses more on consulting. The bar was a launchpad for Dec’s national TV appearances and a spot on an advisory committee for Asian Americans under President Obama’s administration. The company expanded the brand with spinoffs such as a Rockit Burger Bar in Wrigleyville. Though the signage remains, that restaurant closed last year while new construction surged bringing new bars and restaurants around Wrigley Field.
Dec, who now lives in Tennessee where he tends to the Nashville location of Sunda — his Pan Asian restaurant that originated in River North — wasn’t reached for comment. Dec and Young split business interests last year, with Young taking Rockit and Dec taking Sunda and Rockit Ranch. They had hired well-known chefs to upgrade the menu. But even then, Rockit seemed to have lost its identity as a bro-friendly lounge. It was lost in a sea of newer bars and restaurants in River North catering to the same crowd. Young remodeled the space in August 2018, saying Rockit needed to return to its simple roots.
But the return will have lasted less than a year. Rockit is closing on Saturday.
“Thank you all for 15 years of support and all the unforgettable and amazing memories!” Young’s post read. “I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate everything that you have given me. I hope to see you at our farewell to Rockit celebration!!!”