Deal falls through on microbrewery

Noon Whistle still hoping to locate in Oak Park

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Owners of a proposed craft brewery in Oak Park are looking for a new location to set up shop after lease negotiations broke down over the site planned for 18 Chicago Ave.

Noon Whistle Brewing Co. co-owners spent the last month working with village officials and the Oak Park Economic Development Corp. on their venture but announced Sunday night that they would not be moving into the location near the border of Oak Park and Austin.

Co-owner Mike Condon said in a telephone interview Monday that the breakdown over lease negotiations with Oak Park Apartments, which owns the building, "was unexpected." Condon gave few details about the lease negotiation but said the building owner's "intention is to hopefully sell (the building)."

Condon said Noon Whistle still hopes to find a location in Oak Park but declined to give details about potential sites.

"We are diligently looking for another building that fits our needs," Condon said.

Bill Planek, co-owner of Oak Park Apartments, said in a telephone interview that no one has made an offer to purchase the 7,500-square-foot building, which is currently priced at $645,000. He said negotiations with Noon Whistle owners over a long-term lease agreement were unsuccessful for a number of reasons.

"They are great guys, and I wish them luck," Planek said, adding that Oak Park Apartments "didn't want to take the risk" on the new business.

Planek said he was concerned that renovations to the property would be for a single purpose—a microbrewery—and that if the business failed it was unlikely that a similar business would take its place, requiring further renovations to the property in order to lease the building to the next tenant.

He said Noon Whistle also "put the cart before the horse" in going public with the proposal before securing a lease.

"I think this is kind of a backward type way to negotiate," Planek said. "It was a lot of wasted energy on their part."

OPEDC executive director John Hedges, who was recently hired for the position, acknowledged in a telephone interview that landlords leasing a property take risk on such ventures and that if a business fails it often is not in a position to renovate the building for the next tenant.

Hedges noted that Viktor Schrader, OPEDC vice president, "put a lot of effort" into the project and that the organization would continue to search for a location for the microbrewery.

Noon Whistle co-owners first made the proposal known in January after taking their plans to the Oak Park Liquor Control Review Board. The review board and the full village board established a special microbrew license earlier this month to accommodate the proposed business.

Bob Planek, co-owner of Oak Park Apartments and brother to Bill Planek, also said in a telephone interview that there was concern about the viability of the proposed business.

"There were a lot of questions going forward of what is the likelihood that they will be a business in two or three years," he said.

He also said there was some concern about the displacement of existing tenants at the location, roller derby fitness club Derby Lite and Legacy Sports Camp, a children's athletic training facility.

"We've got the place rented to established local businesses," he said. "The unknowns going forward were just too great to disrupt what we're doing now."


Reader Comments

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OP Transplant  

Posted: March 6th, 2014 5:42 PM

It's okay to want one thing or the other, but I get tired of people demanding more affordable housing, and then complaining about pawn shops and wig stores. You can want more low income residents, or you can want more upscale shopping and dining. You can't realistically want both.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: March 6th, 2014 4:09 PM

OPT, in liberal lala land when you attract higher income residents it is known as gentrification which is bad because you displace lower income residents. Looks like OP is in a pickle or trying to juggle chainsaws. We want more upscale businesses but also want affordable housing and economic diversity.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2014 3:38 PM

OP Transplant, do you know if the Village has a certain goal (number of people, percentage of housing units, etc.) in mind regarding affordable housing aka Housing Choice Voucher aka Section 8 housing? Just wondering if there is info out there so I can see what we're talking about. I am not well-versed in this area. I'm looking at the OP Housing Authority website and its waiting list closed in March 2004. Ten years ago. High demand, low supply?

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 5th, 2014 10:21 AM

ED from OP - No pot stirring intended. If we as a community determine that economic diversity is a trait that we value, we resign ourselves to the fact that it means lowering our median income. I've never heard the economic diversity issue framed in terms of attracting more affluent residents, only in terms of having more affordable housing for low income residents. And lower median income is statistically correlated with many quality of life woes, including difficulty attracting new business.

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 5th, 2014 10:13 AM

Bridgett-What you say is true, but not really helpful to OP's commercial interests. River Forest is affluent, but has a small population. A glance at the map will tell you that if you move north, south, east, or west of OP/RF, you enter lower income communities. Our zone of potential customers does little to attract the upscale retail and dining that OP and RF residents would like to see, because our surrounding communities are less likely to support these businesses than OP and RF themselves.

Economic Diversity? from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 4th, 2014 10:30 PM

@OP Transplant - Completely disagree with your last comment and believe you are just stirring the pot to see what kind of muck you can kick up. Let's keep the conversation positive and relevant.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2014 7:22 PM

@OP Transplant, Non-Oak Parkers can patronize Oak Park businesses, just as I, as an OPer, patronize businesses in FP, RF, Chicago, etc. Meaning, you can have people living here who don't patronize a business, and still have that business survive. (It does depend on the type of business, though). When looking at the demographics, a business looks not at the Village's boundaries, but at a radius of a certain number of miles. So that "zone" of potential customers can include many towns.

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 4th, 2014 4:27 PM

I've heard "economic diversity" described as a positive trait many times on this site. Since we are a relatively affluent community, we can only achieve this diversity by increasing the number of residents with lower-than-average incomes. So, if we want economic diversity, we must desire low-income residents, right?


Posted: March 4th, 2014 4:22 PM

A few of your points we can actually agree on, probably, OP Transplant. There is a reason Forest Park has liquor stores and bars while Oak Park has nail salons and wig shops. Those don't require a lot of work to lure.


Posted: March 4th, 2014 3:54 PM

who in their right mind would call "low income residents" highly desired. I ask someone to explain what is desirable about low income without talking about race

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 4th, 2014 3:48 PM

Oak Parkers want upscale retail, fine dining, craft brewing, etc. We also want economic diversity, which in a relatively affluent community means more low-income residents. But in real life, prospective business may not want to locate in a community that emphasizes economic diversity, since those highly desired low-income residents likely cannot afford to patronize high-end retail, fine dining, etc. There's a reason Oak Brook has an Apple store while we complain about the number of pawn shops.


Posted: March 4th, 2014 3:13 PM

I'm not saying every business is going to succeed. I'm talking about blocks of development in general. That takes a mix of private/public investment, luring business in with affordable rents, planning, good anchor businesses. The kind of things that neither OP nor FP is probably willing to really do. Business these days goes to where there are financial incentives offered. Do we have that kind of pro-business climate here? Not holding my breath.

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 4th, 2014 3:03 PM

"...we know exactly what a successful retail district looks like and what it needs to thrive." Actually, that's not true. If it were, the survival rate of new businesses would be much higher. Yours is magical thinking. You want only successful new businesses. You expect to win every time with one in five odds. If yo could predict with unerring accuracy which prospective businesses will succeed or fail, you'd be too busy feeding caviar to supermodels to spend time posting here.


Posted: March 4th, 2014 1:49 PM

A string of failed businesses is a pretty bad way to find the couple of successful businesses that will make it. Trial and error is no way to develop a retail district when we know exactly what a successful retail district looks like and what it needs to thrive. Both OP and FP are examples of what not to do in that regard.

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 4th, 2014 1:33 PM

Why? - That most businesses fail is reality. My point is that the only way to increase the number of long-term businesses is to increase the number of failed businesses even more. You have to open in the first place to even have a shot to be that one in five that lasts a few years (forget decades.) I eat in Forest Park all the time. Some of the places I like make it, and some don't. But I still keep going back to Forest Park, so the community wins either way.

What Why?  

Posted: March 4th, 2014 1:07 PM

Forest Park looks horrible? Get in your car and drive from Austin and Madison west to Des Plaines Ave and Madison and report back with what looks horrible.


Posted: March 4th, 2014 12:42 PM

I don't think anybody is disputing you that business failing within a couple years is the norm. But just because that's frequent doesn't mean it is desired or what we're aiming for with development. It's not just "get any business in there." In Forest Park it looks horrible. Business doesn't have to last 50 years in one location. The point is longterm viability and what should be done to help that along.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 4th, 2014 12:39 PM

I use the Southland shopping regularly. It has taken giant steps in the last couple years, but still has more potential. My crack about the local shopping district are nothing to brag about was comparative to DTOP. We have spent millions on downtown with minimal success. I have argued for years that the village has neglected the local shopping districts while concentrating its attention on downtown.

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 4th, 2014 12:17 PM

Theresa - Very few businesses last decades. Drive down Lake Street and count the ones that have been there twenty years. High turnover is the norm, because about 80% of new businesses fail within the first two years. The key is to continue attracting new businesses to replace those that fail. FP does that well. We don't.


Posted: March 4th, 2014 12:03 PM

JBM don't knock our neighborhood retail. It is home to so many small, independent, family businesses, I am glad they chose to be here. Room for improvement? Sure, but I am an optimist, and look at the upside.


Posted: March 4th, 2014 11:40 AM

OP T - high turnover is not ideal, and yes some businesses last for decades, though many fall somewhere in between. I was agreeing with the idea that Oak Park and Forest Park are different. Vacant spaces need to be filled for sure, and taking a risk helps, but it can be very costly. It's hard to see what went wrong from the curb, we are lucky to still have Derby Lite, and hopefully other property owners in OP will reach out to Noon Whistle, soon.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 4th, 2014 10:45 AM

The retail comparison of Oak Park and River Forest is weak. RF has half OP's population, a lot less land mass, and OP's neighborhood retail is really nothing to brag about.

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 4th, 2014 10:32 AM

So our standard is we only welcome businesses that will stay for a "few decades"? That is, truly, crazy talk. Very, very few businesses last decades. Where are you people from, where that is your norm?


Posted: March 4th, 2014 10:01 AM

I have to agree with Why. Forest Park is a different market, with it's own flaws. Almost all of the storefront retail is on Madison, Oak Park has several business districts to fill. The deal that fell through on Chicago Ave. is what it is, two distinctly different businesses (real estate investment and brewing beer) that could not make their goals overlap, simple as that. Better they part now than after a huge loan is taken out. I hope Noon Whistle considers other space in town.


Posted: March 4th, 2014 9:35 AM

The ideal, OP Transplant, is to attract business that comes and stays for a few decades. Having vacant space and stores that stay open for a year is not good for community economic stability. It's not about just "attracting" business. It's keeping them open that's more important.

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 4th, 2014 8:54 AM

To Why? - That businesses come and go is actually a good thing. Of course, most new businesses fail - anywhere. The fact that new businesses continue to locate in Forest Park indicates that they are doing something better than we are. Your "revolving door" analogy is apt. There is no commercial area in OP busy enough to describe as having a revolving door. We have a rusty old storm door that clangs shut when people leave, but we don't replace it, since it hardly ever gets used.


Posted: March 4th, 2014 8:41 AM

Why does everyone in OP always point to Forest Park as being more business friendly? Madison in FP is full of empty storefronts, bars, and the businesses come and go like a revolving door. Not exactly a model for how to run OP.


Posted: March 4th, 2014 7:55 AM

They'll end up in a more business-friendly place like Forest Park or Berwyn.

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 3rd, 2014 8:53 PM

Landlord's worried about what might happen in "two or three years"? I thought the current tenants were on a month-by-month lease. Noon Whistle might have dodged the bullet here. Building owners who don't want to spend money don't make ideal landlords for new businesses. Look forward to going to Noon Whistle, probably on Madison in FP or Roosevelt in Berwyn. Meanwhile, OP gets a non-profit theater and a food coop, two more local businesses I'll probably never set foot in. Vegan shoes, anyone?

Nelson Taruc from Oak Park  

Posted: February 25th, 2014 8:13 PM

I'm pretty sure Noon Whistle will find a nice and more inviting spot in Berwyn or Forest Park. Best of luck to them.


Posted: February 25th, 2014 7:13 PM

Guys, read article . The landlord is on the hook for a failed brewery facility if the brewery fails.


Posted: February 25th, 2014 3:29 PM

If I were designing the OPD, first find people who actually built businesses (not attorneys - sorry, rarely add real business value), redesign TIF/Zoning, create strategy (i.e. art/food district, retail district) and focus on our best assets. Finally, get real aggressive - Forest Park and Berwyn are well orgainzed and GO after businesses. Finally, stop acting like we are doing the businesses a favor by allowing them to invest millions here - easier said than done with tone and tenor of debate


Posted: February 25th, 2014 3:05 PM

@ duane. There are many reasons OP for the poor performance in attracting business which include: a) lack of cohesive strategy b) lack of business people who have created shareholder value on board c) too much red tape/ zoming and approval requirements d) attitude as if a business is lucky if we ALLOW then the honor to come here e) more aggressive Forest Park/berwyn ... could go on but you get the point.

Duane from Oak Park  

Posted: February 25th, 2014 2:45 PM

Seriously? Oak Park needs to step up it's game on being business friendly. Why are we stuck with so many vacant properties in this village? There seems to be a demand for business but there are just too many hoops to jump through to open a viable business. This is beyond frustrating.


Posted: February 25th, 2014 1:12 PM

Oak Park Brewing......In lights....and neon......with dancers.......and singers. Its show time!


Posted: February 25th, 2014 7:26 AM

Lots of empty buildings on Madison, look there!!! We have been promised re-development on Madison street for years & what have we gotten? CVS, Walgreens & a hair supply store with cheap clothes, whoppee!! A micro-brewery could be the start!!

Mike from Oak Park  

Posted: February 25th, 2014 6:35 AM

I need some serious crowd funding! If I had the money, I would love to buy this building and lease it back to the microbrewery. Two things I know?? I love microbrew beer?.. and Oak Park will remain a boring place to "live" without this business. Too bad the building owners wimped out.

Adam Smith  

Posted: February 25th, 2014 3:21 AM

This is a great opportunity to crowd fund the acquisition then lease back to the derby group baseball, etc. Time to get away from the keyboard and step up and take some action.

Gene Armstrong from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 11:12 PM

There are long-vacant buildings at Harrison and Lombard just up the street from the Buzz Cafe and just east of Tratoria 225 and LaMajada. The prior "due nothing" owner is gone, right? Who's got the clout to make something happen? Will we see if $750M for economic development in OP can actually make something happen?

Jan Westcott from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 9:54 PM

The neighbors of the Harrison Arts District want this business!

Alissa from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 6:48 PM

This is a real shame. The microbrewery would have helped to transform the feeling of that area. (I live nearby.) The problem w/the roller derby biz--it has no public face. I did not even know it existed until this story ran. I hope that the Noon Whistle finds a place in OP. It sounds so promising...


Posted: February 24th, 2014 5:50 PM

The building is available for $645,000 if anyone is interested in purchasing it and leasing it to these guys.

Next time...  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 5:15 PM

Sounds like maybe there should be a village-backed fund to protect landlords from having to remodel so quickly if a new business fails. That said, sounds fair on the part of the building owner. I'd like to see Noon Whistle in the village, but they need to be more business savvy about the specifics of their location next time. Don't ask for the world when you're unproven.


Posted: February 24th, 2014 5:14 PM

I can't believe anyone is happy that a sorely needed business in a part of town that is desperate for any business is not going to open up! Small minds...

Jennifer from Oak Park   

Posted: February 24th, 2014 5:10 PM

Yay! Now perhaps a vacant property will be occupied instead of displacing several existing local businesses! I hope the brewery finds their perfect spot in Oak Park!

Karen from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 5:00 PM

We need another sports facility? Aldi got booted so a new such establishment could go up. Property taxes are so high because we have no real businesses for a tax base. A microbrewery might even bring other businesses such as restaurants to this end of Oak Park. Bill Planek may be real estate king in Oak Park but, he has poor judgement.

Eilene McCullagh Heckman from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 4:58 PM

What's in the old Home Juice building on Harrison Street? That would be a perfect spot...

Jeff from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 4:54 PM

This town, and nearby towns have lots of places to drink, but not a lot of places to do roller derby and indoor sports in the winter. The best deals are sometimes the deals that fall through.

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