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Werewolf Coffee Bar Mulls Takeover Of Filter Cafe

By Alisa Hauser | October 18, 2017 6:15pm
 Filter Cafe at 1373 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Filter Cafe In Wicker Park
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WICKER PARK —  Filter Cafe has been under new management for the past few months and could be morphing into the city's second Werewolf Coffee Bar, according to several sources.

Chicago-based DMK Restaurants, which also owns and operates Werewolf Coffee Bar, DMK Burger Bar and Ada Street, has been helping to operate Filter Cafe since its founder Jeff Linnae moved on in July.

"I've been around coffee for nearly 20 years ... bittersweet moment! Filter Coffee will always be the coolest coffee lounge in my estimation!" Linnae posted on his Facebook page when he parted ways with the cafe.

Linnae was not immediately able to discuss the cafe's future on Wednesday. State records show that Filter Cafe's business license was dissolved on October 13.

Filter barista Michael Loyola confirmed that DMK Restaurants has been managing the shop and making new investments into it.

"Our old espresso machine was very much broken down. We have a new one now, the changes have been good," Loyola said.

Known for its mismatched vintage couches, chalkboard walls in the bathroom where patrons can scrawl messages, and an extensive food menu, Filter Cafe was a staple at Wicker Park's main intersection in the 1990s and early 2000s until it was pushed out by high rent.

A Bank of America Branch replaced the original Filter Cafe in 2007. Linnae eventually relocated two blocks south and reopened Filter Cafe at 1373 N. Milwaukee Ave. in 2010.

For the past five years, John Burks has curated the art on Filter's walls. 

But after meeting with MacKenzie Gilliam, who has been overseeing operations at Filter Cafe for the past few months, Burk said, "We mutually decided to separate."

Gilliam is also the manager of the recently opened Werewolf Coffee Bar at 1765 N. Elston Ave. , which brews Dark Matter and Metropolis coffee.

Gilliam declined to comment beyond saying, "DMK Restaurants does not have an ownership stake in Filter in spite of rumors. We are, however, looking into that location for a possible expansion site of Werewolf Coffee Bar, but no final plans or agreements have been made at this time."

Burk, who works full-time as a real estate agent, said that his volunteer curator job — all profits went to the artists whom he selected to display their works on the walls — was nearing its end anyway.

"It was time. I'm kind of happy to free up more time. I liked Filter how it was and what it is. It has changed a lot since they took it over ,and it's ready for something new," Burks said.

Burk moved to the neighborhood in 2003 and was a regular customer at the original Filter Cafe.

"Everyone was so ecstatic to see it come back [in 2010]. Filter means a lot to the community. It's the only coffee shop all about community and not just coffee," Burk said.

A few weeks ago, Steve Scap, a freelance photographer, griped about the cafe's shortened hours of operation. 

Scop said the cafe now closes at 7 p.m. during the week instead of 9 p.m. in the past. 

"As a freelance photographer, working from Filter was great because they were the only place open late. I hope it's not a sign of slowing business, as they're one of the old school Wicker Park establishments," Scap said in an email.