The Hawk co-owner Kyle Flavin behind the bar at the soon-to-be opened Willmore establishment. Photos by Jason Ruiz.
If you’ve been to the Blind Donkey, you’ve probably met Kyle Flavin.
He’s the slender, blonde(ish) tattooed man behind the bar serving up drinks and dishing out knowledge on the East Village watering hole’s vast collection of bourbons, ryes and scotches.
Flavin served as general manager of the ultra-popular underground whiskey bar for nearly four years, helping to open the location at the corner of Linden Street and Broadway Avenue after working for over six years at Little Bear in Los Angeles.
After years of searching for the right spot, and over a decade of serving in nearly every capacity in the hospitality industry, Flavin is resurrecting a Willmore neighborhood dive—The Nugget—and opening what he hopes will become a neighborhood institution in its own right when The Hawk opens this weekend.
Gone are the wood-panel walls and the checkerboard floors; in their place is polished concrete, globe-sconce light fixtures and Victorian-esque floral print wallpaper in blue and beige. But The Hawk will utilize The Nugget's old sign, after some sprucing up.
Looking over the bar is a pre-1945 taxidermied Kestrel Hawk, for which Flavin made sure to note he has the paperwork to prove it was mounted in compliance with the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Flavin and his two business partners—one of which is his dad, Ray—have spent the past two months lending the tender love and care to the building that is undergoing its finishing touches before Saturday night’s opening.
While one might think that the man charged with running one of downtown’s more hipster watering holes might try to replicate it, you’d be mistaken. Yes, there will be a broad selection of tequilas and bourbons, and several craft beer handles, but Flavin said The Hawk will also have domestic and Mexican beer selections as well as $3 well drink specials on a daily basis.
If someone comes to The Hawk looking for a Beachwood Blendery sour, they have it. If someone wants a Miller High Life, they’ve got that, too.
“Really, what I’d like to capture is that full spectrum and embrace what everybody likes,” Flavin said. “Not just sort of a craft thing or just a dive bar thing, I’d like to somehow bridge that gap and sort of have the whole thing for everyone.”
The inclusive and eclectic planning was also extended to the Rowe Berkeley wall-mounted jukebox that hangs on the eastern wall of the The Hawk. Flavin, a self-described music junkie, meticulously curated the selection that includes acts ranging from The Rolling Stones and Frank Sinatra to Vicente Fernandez, Craft Spells and Frank Ocean.
The alcohol selection and jukebox inventory are all byproducts of Flavin’s vision for The Hawk, and his attempts to try and blend the gaps between dive bars and more trendy establishments.
The Midwestern flare apparent in the bar’s interior he credits to his dad being raised in Chicago.
“It just feels more natural, it feels more like myself, somewhere where I’d like to hangout,” Flavin said. “It’s just more of what I like and more of what the neighborhood, I think, is interested in. We’re not coming in trying to change anything. We’re just kind of opening our doors and hoping people like what we have for them.”
If you liked Flavin’s cocktail mastery while he worked at the Blind Donkey you’ll be excited to know that he’s developed his own roster of drinks he’s bringing to The Hawk, including a Mint Green Tea Whiskey Sour and Burning Love, a blend of mezcal, campari, vermouth, lime and bitters.
The selection and their approachable price points—The Hawk’s cocktail menu is all under $10—he hopes will invite people to try new things, and if they’re curious to strike up a conversation with him or his staff.
Flavin feels there’s something communal about a bar that doesn’t exist in the digital age anymore, and he’s hoping to create a hub of community near the corner of Anaheim Street and Magnolia Avenue.
“The whole thing about the Donkey and places I’ve worked in the past, it’s always been ‘let’s start a conversation about stuff’ versus there being this sort of glass door between the patron and the staff,” Flavin said.
“That’s the same thing I’d like to carry as a philosophy here. Let’s have a conversation. If you see something and you want to talk about it, I want the staff to be really well trained and to have really affordable price points so people can try a lot of stuff. I believe that’s kind of lost in the fog of hospitality.”
The Hawk is located at 468 W. Anaheim Street. Its grand opening is scheduled for Saturday August 12 with doors open at 4PM.