As if there was ever any doubt.
Paris Club finished first in the “Top Celebrity Hangouts” rankings for the second year in a row, thanks in large part to its exclusive upstairs club, Studio Paris. This means the Melman siblings, R.J., Molly and Jerrod, owned the top two venues on this year’s list: No. 1-ranked Paris Club and No. 2-ranked RPM Italian.
The annual rankings are based on the number of celebrity sightings and star power. Rounding out the list was No. 3 Chicago Cut Steakhouse, No. 4 Sunda (ranked No. 1 in 2010 and 2011) and No. 5 Siena Tavern. Here’s a look at what made Paris Club’s restaurant and club the go-to for bold names in Chicago:
Spotted: Mick Jagger, Lady Gaga, Drake, Miley Cyrus, Bill Murray, Matthew Perry, Lil Jon, Jason Derulo, Nas, Dennis Rodman, Evander Holyfield, George Lucas, R. Kelly, Michael Bay, Michael Shannon, Steve Aoki, Ellie Goulding, Scottie Pippen, Jack Osbourne, Mark Salling, AnnaSophia Robb, Perry Farrell, Shaun White, The Killers
Regulars: Jenny McCarthy, Carlos Boozer, Lance Briggs
Owners: R.J., Molly and Jerrod Melman, owners of Bub City and Hub 51 and co-owners of RPM Italian.
Back story: The Melman siblings felt French restaurant Brasserie Jo, owned by their father Rich Melman’s Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, didn’t have the same energy as the rest of the vibrant Hubbard street, which includes the siblings’ Hub 51, and decided to take over the space with a new concept. “Halfway through construction, the second floor became available,” said R.J. Melman, noting that the club wasn’t in the original plans. “We thought we could do something new in the club world in Chicago. Somewhere big artists could perform.” Derulo, Robin Thicke and Cee Lo Green have all performed on the club’s makeshift stage, which has also featured world-famous DJs Kaskade, Calvin Harris, Steve Aoki and Avicii.
Celeb story: “I had no idea what they had planned for my birthday,” R.J. said of his birthday celebration in May. “All of a sudden, carrying out my birthday cake was Ralph Macchio from ‘The Karate Kid.’ The whole staff was dressed in Cobra Kai outfits and Joe Esposito’s ‘You’re the Best (Around)’ was playing. I’m a huge ‘Karate Kid’ fan and Jerrod had arranged for the appearance. It was such a surreal night.”
Draw: Celebs want to hang out at the most popular club in town. And the last two years, that’s been Studio Paris. Both the club and restaurant benefit from the many relationships the Melmans have built with stars — not to mention some celeb wrangling — but reputation seems to be the biggest factor in drawing celebs. “Fortunately, we have a lot of credibility,” R.J. said. “I think through our friends in the industry who live in other cities, we have a great reputation. Celebs who come here know they’re not going to get bothered. We’re not going to ask them for pictures.”
VIP section: The corner booths by the DJ stage tend to be where celebrities sit in Studio Paris. This is so they can be close to the DJ, should they be a fan of whoever it is that’s spinning. “Tiesto was here after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup,” RJ said. “Some of the Blackhawks were in the DJ booth with him the whole night. That’s the most fun I’ve seen them have here.” Celebs also have the option of sitting in a private dining room in the restaurant. “After Lollapalooza, Perry Farrell used a private dining room. He was with The Killers and New Order and Phoenix joined them a little later” without anyone realizing it.
Discount: “We don’t have a protocol,” Jerrod said. “Sometimes we bring them champagne. There’s no one thing we do. A lot of times the people who they’re with are paying. Mick Jagger doesn’t put down an AmEx card. It’s usually someone who they’re with.”
Sample tweet: “Still stuffed from last night’s super-yummy dinner at @ParisClubChi in Chicago last night.” — “Chelsea Lately” panelist and former “Tonight Show” intern Ross Mathews
Dish: “The lobster crostini is one of our more popular dishes,” Jerrod said. “Miley Cyrus’s table had it. Billy Corgan had it. Perry Farrell and The Killers had it and loved it.”
Phil Vettel’s restaurant review: 2 stars
Impact: “Club years are like dog years,” Jerrod said. “One year equals, like, seven. Having a celeb presence keeps the place relevant and fun. It’s part of what makes the place exciting. You might see someone famous. It’s all part of the experience.”
Future outlook: It would seem unlikely Paris Club would finish No. 1 again for a third straight year considering how fickle the scene is, but that’s looking more and more like a possibility. The Melmans’ biggest competition could be themselves. RPM Italian is gaining popularity among celebs, and RPM Steak is on the way next year. And yeah, The Underground is also a threat now that it’s remodeled, but Paris Club will also undergo a makeover of its own beginning in January. The dining room will be given a new look to reflect the trendy French fare, and, just announced Wednesday, the restaurant’s bar and lounge area will be transformed into an as-yet unnamed ramen noodle spot when it reopens around March. Separating the restaurant and the new ramen concept will be a new entrance for Studio Paris. The restaurant will close during the remodeling but re-open in early February. Studio Paris is expected to stay open throughout construction, which is good news for its famous clientele and bad news for its competitors.