By Lyna Bentahar
Special to the Sentinel
ROCKVILLE – Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant officially opened its doors on Research Row on July 15. It is the restaurant and wine bar’s second location in Maryland after Montgomery County opened its laws to allow for a liquor license that suited the enterprise.
Tim McEnery founded Cooper’s Hawk in Orland Park, Illinois in 2005. It has since expanded throughout the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic. Rockville is its 36th location.
The restaurant had its grand opening, with Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton in attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. July 15 was its official opening, filling up the two bars.
The restaurant is split into three rooms: a Napa-style standing bar at the entrance, a general sitting bar and a dining room further back. Bottles of wine are also available for purchase to take out. This is a unique feature of Cooper’s Hawk’s liquor license in the county, which allows for the enterprise to function as both a winery, a bar and a restaurant.
The concept revolves around doing a wine tasting and still being able to sit down and enjoy a meal at a restaurant. Cooper’s Hawk is a self-described “upscale” casual New American restaurant, with Western, Atlantic, and Midwest influences on their food and style.
“We’re not fine dining by any stretch of the word,” said Dan Priebe, the location’s general manager.
Priebe was originally hired as a restaurant manager for Cooper’s Hawk in Ohio, moving to open the Annapolis location in May 2016 before eventually being asked to open and manage Cooper’s Hawk in Rockville.
“What sold me is that everybody working there loved being there,” Priebe said about his time with Cooper’s Hawk. “I don’t consider this work. This is a great lifestyle brand for me.”
“Learning the Cooper’s Hawk system can be challenging…but it’s so much fun at the same time,” said Evan Moss, a waiter at the restaurant. Moss was living in Denver before moving to Maryland to be close to family. He has worked at restaurants before but the concept and the professionalism at Cooper’s Hawk drew Moss back into the industry.
As a winery, Cooper’s Hawk also considers itself a source of education about wine for the community, including educational tools on the menu.
“We’re here to bring wine to everyone,” said Priebe. “Not only to consume but to educate, and pass along a feeling of community to the guests at the restaurant.”
This sense of community expands to charity work that the restaurant organizes every year in all its locations. Priebe said he completed gardening and yard work at the Baltimore Zoo for their first location in Annapolis and supported a dog shelter. He is currently looking for an events coordinator to help organize the charity days involving the restaurant and already seen his staff volunteer to take up the role themselves.
“We are very, very involved in the community,” said Cody Redwinski, the servers’ trainer. He pointed to a bulletin board in the back, which lists promotions for customers and staff who do community service.
Cooper’s Hawk considers its main priority to build a sense of community and family for its staff, customers and the local community. After only about a week of working together, staff members have already found themselves building relationships through the restaurant.
“I’ve never had people who invested so much time in us. It makes me feel very special,” said Moss. “So, I know that this is where I want to be; this is where I want to grow.”