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Chicago Cat Cafe Alert: Bucktown’s Windy Kitty is Open

Will this business model catch on in Chicago?

A black and white cat sits on top of a scratching box shaped into the word “meow” and looks out a window onto a Chicago street
Windy Kitty Cat Cafe and Lounge officially opens on Monday.
Barry Brecheisen
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

The owner of the Windy Kitty Cat Cafe and Lounge admitted to a little stage fright last week, as she prepared to open her new Bucktown business which officially debuts to the public on Monday at 1746 W. North Avenue. That doesn’t make a Jennifer Tiner a fraidy-cat, but she had a few jitters as she needed to find a new cat supplier when the original shelter pulled out at the last second.

“I felt like I was opening a restaurant without food,” Tiner said.

Windy Kitty quickly rebounded, coming terms to an agreement with Chicago Animal Care and Control. The group will provide the 12 to 15 cats visitors will see roaming around the space. They’ll have to go through animal care to adopt any animals, but Tiner is happy to provide a place to relax and learn. She also sees Windy Kitty as potentially popular with private events — imagine snapping an adorable photo of young children playing with cats and posting the shot onto Instagram.

The Windy Kitty is the second business to hold a cat cafe license issued by the city. There’s also Catcade, but that spot is more about the vintage video games; Windy Kitty’s got custom lattes with cats depicting floating on the drink’s foam. The city’s license prevents any preparation of food and drink at the cafe (customers are still free to bring in whatever food that want for their private events). It also means that Tiner needed to get creative if she wanted to provide customers with coffee or snacks. All she wanted to do is offer prepackaged snacks and have a coffee dispenser at the front of the cafe, but the city balked.

But by working with Gallery Cafe, a coffee shop located 26 steps away from Windy Kitty, Tiner has satisfied the city’s worries and elevated the cafe’s expectations. Customers can order coffees and pastries at the Windy Kitty. Gallery Cafe will then prepare and deliver the order.

“It took me a long time to work up the guts to ask them,” Tiner said.

Gallery Cafe’s owners have been more than receptive. It’s a unique relationship for a unique space. This year, Chicagoans have gone crazy now that these businesses have finally arrived in town after prospering in other cities. The space will be limited to 15 people at a time. There’s a reservation system that allows customers to book visits for $12 per hour. If there’s no one waiting, customers can stay longer, but they should inform management prior to their visit if they are staying longer than an hour, Tiner said. They also offer memberships and packages with discounted admission. Memberships aren’t mandatory, Tiner said.

One thing that Tiner wants to stress: Customers should leave their pets at home. It’s a health risk for the cafe’s cats to introduce them to unfamiliar cats in a communal setting.

Other than that caveat, the Windy Kitty wants to be a community resource. Tiner talked about holding yoga classes, working with senior citizens, and those stricken by mental illness. Studies have shown interaction with pets is a benefit.

Over the weekend, Windy Kitty held friends and family hours, but now Tiner and company are ready to showcase their business to the general public. Windy Kitty is now officially open in Bucktown.

Windy Kitty Cat Cafe and Lounge, 1746 W. North Avenue, open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and closed from 1 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday.

Windy Kitty Cat Cafe and Lounge

1746 W. North Avenue, Chicago, IL Visit Website