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Nighthawk Owners Say Wait Is Almost Over for Albany Park Coffee Shop/Bar

By Patty Wetli | August 24, 2015 9:40am

ALBANY PARK — A gutted storefront was one of the hottest attractions over the weekend at Albany Park's World Fest.

Owners Howard Windmiller and Brendan Phillips welcomed curiosity seekers into the under-construction Nighthawk at 4744 N. Kimball Ave. The impromptu open house was intended to send a strong signal to neighbors that the coffee shop/bar is indeed still coming soon after a nearly two-year delay.

In six to eight weeks, their vision for a coffee shop by day, bar by night should finally open, they said.

After a string of unexpected delays, Nighthawk coffee shop/bar should open in six to eight weeks. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Windmiller and Phillips first presented their concept for Nighthawk to residents at a November 2013 community meeting, requesting support for a zoning change in order to get a tavern license.

Having received the necessary approvals, the business partners began work on Nighthawk's buildout in 2014 with a "repair and replace" permit, according to Windmiller.

But the change in zoning and licensure triggered closer scrutiny of the project, and the city put the brakes on construction as a mere restoration project. That sent Nighthawk back to square one in the permitting process.

"We had to rip everything out and start over," Windmiller said.

Patty Wetli says there have been many hurdles along the way:

The duo took time off to raise additional funding for alterations required by their new permit, including moving the bathrooms from one side of the building to the other, ripping up the floor to install new drainage, and adding all new electrical and HVAC.

Along the way, work crews discovered mountains of garbage left by previous tenant Just Butch's, active rat nests and open sewers under the floor, according to Windmiller.

Adding insult to injury, in the time it's taken for Nighthawk to get its ducks in a row, a Dunkin' Donuts opened across the street at the Kimball Brown Line station in direct competition for the morning coffee crowd that was a large part of the appeal of Nighthawk's location for its owners.

Windmiller confessed there were several moments when he considered throwing in the towel, but he had already signed a lease on the space and sunk too much time and money into renovations to walk away.

With the end now in sight, he said he's finally feeling positive about the project.

It's helped that over the two-day World Fest, a steady stream of neighbors poked their heads in the door and expressed their continued excitement for Nighthawk, Windmiller said.

He pointed to a notebook containing five pages of contact information for people who want an email alert in advance of Nighthawk's opening.

Assuming all finally goes according to plan, that long-awaited notice should hit their in-boxes by the end of October.

Though most of Nighthawk has been gutted, owners are keeping the original tin ceiling, which they uncovered during the rehab. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Picture a bar here. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Picture picking up your daily coffee here, once construction is completed. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

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