Dubuque restaurant to delay opening, seek new location

Plans are changing for an anticipated new Dubuque eatery.

Birds., the restaurant planned to open at 801 Rhomberg Ave., will now seek to find a new location in Dubuque, following the termination of a development agreement between the city and Offal Food Group LLC, the operating company developing the eatery, according to owner Kevin Scharpf.

Dubuque City Council members voted on April 19 to terminate the development agreement, which provided city funds for façade improvements to the 801 Rhomberg Ave. building, after Scharpf, the owner of Brazen Open Kitchen + Bar in Dubuque, informed the city that his new restaurant project was delayed and seeking a new location.

“We didn’t want to hold anything up and have those funds expire,” Scharpf said. “We wanted to make sure it could still go to a business that needed it.”

Scharpf announced in November his plans to open a new restaurant on Rhomberg Avenue. Called Birds., the eatery would specialize in serving fried chicken and was planned to be open in late spring or early summer of this year.

While Scharpf said he still plans to open Birds. in Dubuque, the high cost of construction materials created by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced him to move on from the idea of rehabilitating the Rhomberg Avenue building and look for another location.

“The cost of materials right now didn’t make it the right time to move forward at that location, but Birds.’ future is very much alive,” Scharpf said. “We have taken a step back to the drawing board, and we are trying to figure out what a new location could be.”

Scharpf said the primary vision of the restaurant remains unchanged. He intends to focus on serving fried chicken, providing dine-in, delivery and carryout service and employing a staff of between eight and 12.

“The concept is very strong, and we don’t want to waver from that,” Scharpf said. “You can expect some minor changes as we are coming out of the pandemic and some minor enhancements, but it will still largely be the same.”

He added that he plans to open the restaurant before the end of the year.

“It’s a priority for us to get Birds. to the city of Dubuque consumer this year somehow,” Scharpf said.

Scharpf said he would strongly prefer to open the new restaurant in downtown Dubuque.

Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of Greater Dubuque Development Corp., said many local businesses looking to conduct expansion or renovation projects are faced with high costs for lumber and structural metals, forcing many of them to delay their construction dates to begin redesigns to decrease costs.

“The pandemic has caused the supply to be down, and the improvements in the economy have caused the demand to go up,” Dickinson said. “The bottom line is if you buy a two-by-four today, it’s going to be double the price.”