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Where to Host a Last-Minute Business Meeting in Chicago

October 14th, 2016 /

I was in Chicago on a business trip last month and, in one of those serendipitous moments life sometimes sends our way, met a salesperson who seemed perfect for a recent company opening. I was able to set up a quick meeting with her at a coffee shop, but it got me thinking. What would I have done if I needed more space? What if I met a new client and wanted a secluded spot? Or had to give a presentation at the last minute and found myself in need of equipment?

There are plenty of reasons business owners like myself might need to host a last-minute meeting, and since I’m in the Windy City pretty frequently, I talked with a few Chicago insiders, scouted out some locations on my own, and came up with these suggestions for fellow business travelers.

where to host a last-minute business meeting in chicago

Image credit: Flickr user Eugene Kim (CC BY 2.0)

Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces are great for conducting meetings, networking, and getting work done, but they aren’t exactly cheap or designed for a last-minute meet-up. However, if you have a membership to the national brand WeWork, you’ll find three locations in the downtown Chicago area that you can use for the day. The lowest membership level costs $45 a month and gives you two work days per 30-day period at any WeWork location (in either an office or a conference room). If you host meetings around the country often, it might be worth the price for the peace of mind that comes with always having a spot available.

If you don’t want the hassle of a membership, your best bet is a daily rental through Grind, which offers office space in Chicago by the day (for around $20-$35) or via a week long pass (which runs into the $300 range). You can also book a conference room with day-of notice for $65/hour, including WiFi, ethernet, whiteboards, monitors, wireless conference phones, and coffee and tea. (The coffee is from Intelligentsia, a local Chicago roaster.)

Bars and Restaurants

Bars and restaurants are a classic, and there’s definitely no shortage in Chicago. In general, you’re looking for a location that’s not too noisy, with enough table space to pull out a computer or notepad. You’ll find additional bar and restaurant choices in the hotel section below, but here are a few nice non-hotel options:

The Franklin Room. This swanky tavern off Franklin Street specializes in speakeasy cocktails but has an awesome beer and wine selection. It’s a great spot for impressing new clients and having private conversations. The menu and the atmosphere make it just fancy enough to impress without going over the top.

Gibson’s. The quintessential Chicago steakhouse. If you’re going for the classic red meat and martini business dinner, you needn’t look any further. There are three locations in the Chicago area, including one that’s downtown. If your last-minute meeting is during the week, you can usually be seated within a half hour—and there’s always room at the bar.

Hubbard Inn. This euro-tavern bar and restaurant is great for informal meetings in an inviting atmosphere. The menu has a little bit of everything and the bar boasts impressive cocktails. The best thing about this option is that it provides three floors of private dining spaces, from “library lounge” to buffet set-ups and fireside bar service. To book an entire room, 24-hour notice is needed. If you’ve got a smaller group and only need a table to dine, you can often just walk on in.

Morton’s Steakhouse, Shaw’s Crab House and The Purple Pig are all worth a mention, particularly for business lunches. Morton’s is similar to Gibson’s in that it’s a traditional steakhouse. Shaw’s is a favorite for seafood and offers both a formal dining room and a casual Oyster Bar. The Purple Pig is a good option if you’re trying to impress a foodie and looking for a unique menu.

Coffee Shops

Coffee shops are great for low-key lunches, quick meetings, and last-minute prep sessions before a presentation. The downtown area has hundreds, but because they’re near the Loop they can be packed and loud during the work day. Avoid chains like Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. Quieter, more spacious coffee shops are better (if rarer). Here are a few of my favorite options:

Bourgeois Pig Café. Great local coffee, a real menu, jazzy ambient noise and free wifi make this coffee shop off Fullerton Avenue a great meeting and work space. You’ll also find a sequence of rooms on the second floor that are great for small private meetings away from studying students.

Caffe Umbria. A downtown location that offers a European experience. The coffee is Italian and so are the dishes. The shop looks small at first, but you can take drinks into the spacious hall in the adjoining building, where there are usually plenty of tables.

Intelligentsia and Bow Truss are great coffee shops with multiple locations downtown. They offer a minimalist atmosphere that I’ve found to be great for focused meetings.

Hotels

While most hotels have lobbies or bars that will do in a pinch, if you’re trying to impress someone you’ll want to aim beyond “average.” Look for food and drink that draw even those not staying at the hotel, space to set up your computer and talk without being overwhelmed with noise, and flexible conference room booking. I’ve had good luck with these Chicago hotels in particular:

The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. Right off of Michigan Avenue, this centrally-located hotel is not only beautiful, it’s loaded with potential meeting spots. The spacious lobby makes a great workspace, with comfortable seating and wi-fi access. A rooftop bar (Cindy’s) is good for impressing new clients, and The Cherry Circle Room provides a great ambiance for a formal dinner. There’s also The Game Room (a casual bar with billiards) if you want entertainment options or a small whiskey bar (The Milk Room) for confidential conversations. There’s even a Shake Shack for quick business lunches (although it’s by far the classiest diner in Chicago—think tall ceilings, stained-glass windows and marble embellishments while eating a $7.99 burger combo).

The Virgin Hotel Chicago. Virgin Hotels are known for their ultra-modern style, and the Chicago location off Wabash Avenue is no exception. With three flexible event spaces that can host groups of 12- 120, this hotel makes a great location for presentations, private meetings, and networking events. Spaces should be booked in advance, but the hotel’s team is extremely accommodating and will try to help you in a pinch. There are also plenty of other spots for impromptu meetings, like a rooftop bar, a lobby bar, a euro-style coffee and wine bar, and a landmark Chicago diner that includes a private room (The Casting Room). While the Casting Room should also be booked in advance if possible, I’ve found it’s easier to reserve at the last minute than many event spaces.

If you’re looking for more hotel options, whether to host a meeting or rest your head, you should also consider signing up for JetLux. You’ll get corporate rates at luxury hotels across the country, including free upgrades and access to VIP amenities—making it just a little easier to get things done while you’re on the road.

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