No one would blame Ian Schrager for being exhausted. The hotelier has spent decades revolutionizing the way we sleep while away from home — in fact, he’s credited with creating the boutique hotel, opening The Morgan in Manhattan in 1984 and making what was once a relatively staid enterprise into a hip destination.
It’s an apt description of his entire career. Schrager, 67, first made his name as the co-owner of Studio 54 — the mainstay of NYC’s debaucherous ’70s and ’80s nightclub scene. So it’s no surprise that he’s the brains behind PUBLIC Chicago, which opened in the landmark Ambassador East Hotel in 2011, transforming the once-glorious Gold Coast relic into a sophisticated, understated property that’s attracted such distinguished guests as former President Bill Clinton. “Start with and focus on what people want, and work backward from there,” says Schrager of his approach. “Be relentless in achieving excellence and unafraid to try something new.” Despite the hotel’s high-end aesthetic, Schrager is adamant that it’s a spot “for everyone, with great service, great value and great style.” Case in point? Would-be guests can snag a room for just $1 (they usually start at $135) during the hotel’s quirky Dollar Sales: first-come, first-served flash discounts announced via email.
The unflagging Schrager also counts “family man” on his impressive resume. He’s married to Tania, a former ballerina and Chicago native, and he’s a father of five — he has two daughters from a previous marriage, two stepdaughters and a toddler, Louis, with Tania. Despite his packed schedule, Schrager doesn’t have plans to scale back anytime soon. In fact, PUBLIC Chicago is just the first of many planned PUBLIC hotels. So when Schrager swings through town and has a rare Sunday off the clock, he takes full advantage of it.
9 a.m. Schrager wakes up at PUBLIC Chicago (1301 N. State) and has a quick breakfast from Public Express. If his family’s not with him, he says good morning via FaceTime.
11 a.m. Schrager, who’s a “huge fan” of Anish Kapoor, visits the sculptor’s Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph) masterpiece, Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”).
12 p.m. He heads back to PUBLIC to dine at the Pump Room — the burger is his favorite. “Chicago is a serious food town,” he says. “I didn’t realize that until I started eating at the restaurants.”
2 p.m. Time for the Sunday matinee at the Joffrey Ballet (10 E. Randolph). Schrager’s wife is a former ballerina, so he has a lot of respect “for the discipline and dedication it takes to achieve greatness.”
4 p.m. Schrager spends late afternoon shopping Oak Street and Michigan Avenue, making sure he stops by the Apple store (679 N. Michigan). “They’re the most innovative company,” he says.
6 p.m. After an early dinner at Gibson’s (1028 N. Rush), where he digs into a Chicago-cut steak and wedge salad, Schrager ends his evening at the United Center (1901 W. Madison). “I love basketball, and recently met [former Bull] B.J. Armstrong,” he says. “I hope we can have a game of one-on-one on my next visit.”
Story by Jessica Teas