RAVENSWOOD — When Darren McGraw met with members of the Ravenswood community in February to outline his plans for a proposed wine bar on Lawrence Avenue, to be called Ampersand, he expressed hopes of opening by late May or early June.
That timeframe has now been pushed back, indefinitely.
After failing to come to leasing terms with the owners of the building at 1742 W. Lawrence Ave., McGraw is now back to square one — a man with an idea, but nowhere to set up shop.
"It's just a matter of finding a space," McGraw said.
Patty Wetli discusses the struggles of one man trying to start a wine bar on the North Side:
His search for real estate could extend into Andersonville, he said, but McGraw's preference is to stay in Ravenswood, near his own home.
"I was really looking forward to walking to work," he said.
He's already eyeballing a building on Lawrence near the newly opened Mariano's. The location would require the same lifting of a liquor moratorium as McGraw faced at his original spot.
Having already received community and aldermanic support on that issue, McGraw noted he at least wouldn't be starting completely from scratch.
In previous communications with DNAinfo Chicago, McGraw admitted his initial timeline may have been a bit too optimistic.
In order to obtain building permits, McGraw needed the all-clear on the liquor license from the Zoning Board of Appeals. In order to appear before the ZBA, which only meets once a month, he needed a finalized lease and architectural drawings.
"I was pretty set on things moving 'quickly' due to my nature of being proactive and following up/through," he said in an email. "The real estate agent did mention it would take longer than I thought it would, I just didn't believe it."
McGraw, who has 25 years of experience in the restaurant business, remains committed to the Ampersand concept — the bar would offer a rotating variety of 25 wines by the glass — but isn't imposing any deadlines on himself as he resumes his search for a location.
"I don't know that I'm going to set up a drop-dead time," he said. "This is what I want to do, I'll find a way to make it work."