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."
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