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Coffee Shop/Tavern Concept Wins Thumbs Up From Albany Park Neighbors Group

By Patty Wetli | November 13, 2013 10:58am
 Picture The Nighthawk here, a proposed upscale coffee shop/tavern at 4744 N. Kimball Ave.
Picture The Nighthawk here, a proposed upscale coffee shop/tavern at 4744 N. Kimball Ave.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

ALBANY PARK — CTA "L" stations and coffee shops go together like peanut butter and jelly, except at the Brown Line Kimball stop, where a fancy java joint has been noticeably lacking.

Developers Howard Windmiller and Brendan Phillips are looking to rectify that situation.

The business partners presented their proposal for The Nighthawk, a coffee shop/tavern combo, at Tuesday night's meeting of Albany Park Neighbors.

The Nighthawk would inhabit the storefront at 4744 N. Kimball Ave. formerly occupied by Just Butch's, a bar dubbed "dank and forbidding" by the Chicago Reader.

"We want a neighborhood tavern, not a dive bar," Windmiller said.

The plan for the business is to open at 6 a.m. daily, offering an array of coffees and pastries provided by local bakeries. In the early evening, The Nighthawk would transition to a bar, serving a curated list of craft beers and classic cocktails, as well as coffee.

"To go to that kind of tavern, you're probably leaving Albany Park and going to Lincoln Square or Logan Square," Windmiller told those gathered at the meeting. "We feel this concept will keep neighbors coming back."

Residents raised concerns about security at the late-night spot — The Nighthawk would remain open until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends — as well as the building's rundown appearance.

"It's going to be a full gut rehab," said Phillips, who lives in Lincoln Square.

The interior would feature wood floors, exposed brick and a tin ceiling, which had been covered over, he said.

"That facade is beautiful," added Windmiller, who hails from Morton Grove but has roots in Albany Park. "The problem is, it's had no TLC. We're choosing to restore it quite a bit."

Regarding safety, he said the plan is to have a security person at the door on weeknights, with extra security added Thursdays through Saturdays.

Though this will be the first retail venture for Windmiller and Phillips, both have extensive experience in the hospitality industry. They're currently partners in Windmiller Sound, an audio/visual design and installation firm that's built A/V systems for clients including Hyatt Hotels and Lettuce Entertain You. The company was founded by Windmiller's father in 1973.

"We're not trying to bite off any more than we can chew," Windmiller assured residents.

In order to proceed with The Nighthawk, the partners are requesting a zoning change needed to obtain a tavern license, a change Albany Park Neighbors appeared inclined to support.

"I was impressed with how buttoned up their presentation was," said Shylo Bisnett, who founded the neighborhood group in 2012. "They came through with the answers."

The concept initially reminded her of the Map Room in Bucktown, she said.

"If this is even a tenth as cool as that, I think it would be a great asset to the neighborhood."