ALBANY PARK — Howard Windmiller and Brendan Phillips first announced their plans for a combined coffee bar-tavern across from the Kimball Brown Line station in fall 2013 and Albany Park residents have been waiting mostly patiently for Nighthawk to open ever since.
Now the shoe is on the other foot and the business partners are the ones cooling their heels.
"We passed all our inspections," Windmiller said. "We're just waiting on our liquor license."
Pending that all-important piece of paper from the city, Nighthawk, 4744 N. Kimball Ave., could open within weeks, he said.
"We're sorry it took so long," Windmiller said.
Part of the delay can be attributed to the fact that Windmiller and business partner Phillips — who also run the audio/visual design firm Windmiller Sound — financed Nighthawk themselves.
They initially anticipated making superficial changes to the storefront but wound up having to completely gut the space. Work stopped and started as the partners saved up the cash for each improvement.
"It was a disaster," Windmiller said of the building's condition. "There's literally nothing in here that isn't new."
The lone exception: Nighthawk's original tin ceiling, which was lovingly scraped and sealed so that it doesn't continue to flake.
"You don't find ceilings like that," Windmiller said. "There's no way we were going to pull it out."
One benefit of the delay is that Nighthawk will open with La Colombe nitro cold brew coffee on tap — an advance in coffee consumption that was all but nonexistent three years ago. Draft lattes will likely join cold brew at some point but Windmiller is making no promises regarding when.
Robby Haynes, formerly of Analogue and Violet Hour, is creating the cocktail menu and consulting on the beer list, which will skew toward craft brews in cans and bottles at Nighthawk's opening. The number of brews on tap, which Windmiller originally expected to dominate the menu, will grow as Nighthawk gains its legs, he said.
Those tweaks aside, the partners' concept for Nighthawk remains largely unchanged from 2013.
The plan is to open daily at 6 a.m. (likely later on Sundays) for coffee service — yes, there will be free Wi-Fi — and to gradually transition to beer and cocktails during evening hours. Sweet and savory pastries along with "some really cool nuts" will be available to coat patrons' stomachs, Windmiller said.
A lone TV above the still-under-construction bar will largely remain blank, Windmiller said, except for major events like a certain North Side baseball team's potential World Series run.
"We're not a sports bar," he emphasized.
As Nighthawk nears the finish line, Windmiller said he remains as convinced as he was three years ago — "if not more" — that Albany Park is ripe for the coffee bar-tavern, if for no other reason than the number of people who keep knocking on the door to see if the joint is open.
"We want people to feel comfortable," he said. "If this is the place to meet neighbors and hang out with friends, we've done something right."
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