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After seven years in business, Hal’s Office Coffee, the cleverly monikered cafe in Albany, is preparing to launch a spin-off business later this month. Tentatively titled Hal’s After Hours, this new wine bar will operate in the Hal’s space a bit after the coffee shop’s closure at 4 p.m., with a menu of small bites and a cozy, date night vibe.

The idea, according to co-owner Bonnee Elterman, is to re-open the Solano Avenue shop at 5:30 p.m. and serve wine until 10 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays (with weekend day drinking in the parklet). The libation menu will focus primarily on what they bill as “natural and low-intervention wines” from Farm Wine Imports, with a small savory menu featuring empanadas with green sauce and tinned fish (e.g., Portugal-caught anchovies, boquerones, tuna, and mackerel from Jose Gourmet and Fishwife). Fresh bread, pickles, and olives might also make cameos on the menu once it’s fully realized.

(A bit of Hal’s etymology: Located next door to As You Wish, the frozen yogurt spot also owned by Bonnee and her spouse and co-owner, Abraham Elterman, the cafe was originally home to Hal Hoffman’s notary and real-estate business. Hoffman, who died in 2014, was a staple of the venue — he worked out of the Solano Avenue office for many years — and the Albany community. “We wanted to honor Hal and hope to maintain this location as a meeting place for locals to gather,” Bonnee told Nosh of the spot’s name, when Hal’s first opened in 2015.)

Nile Schneider, former sommelier of Village Pub in Woodside, will helm the After Hours wine program, and is putting together an approachable, truncated wine selection at a price range of $13-$16 per glass.

Hal’s Office
1207 Solano Ave. (near Cornell Avenue), Albany

“Hal’s legacy is a beloved gathering place that’s unpretentious,” he said. “We don’t want to blow our customers away with esoteric wines from around the world, but ones that are familiar.”

While specific wineries are still being selected, you can expect grapes from California, Europe and a smattering of bottles from South America. Around five to six wines will be featured on their new menu, which will rotate monthly. 

“We want to bring the European wine bar/bistro vibe to Albany,” Schneider said. “We’re a community-focused place and want to build upon the humble relationship we already have with our clientele.”

In addition to the new menu and hours, Bonnee and Abraham also plan on featuring live music (think Berkeley High’s jazz band) in the cafe’s parklet. They’re also hoping to offer the occasional food pop-up at After Hours, with an eye to local makers.

Speaking of the parklet, the one outside Hal’s Office (Albany’s first, which was designed by Bonnee and Abraham) has turned into a community hub in recent years — an adult version of the Peach Pit, if you will, for the 94706. Built well before parklets became synonymous with pandemic efforts, it has acted as a gathering spot for people in the neighborhood over the years — which only increased in popularity once COVID hit.

Hal's Office parklet
After Hours will spill into the Hal’s Office parklet, which has become a community hub in the years since its construction. Credit: Hal’s Office/Facebook

“Hal’s has really become a central part of Albany and it really is this community gathering place,” Bonnee said. “We know most people on a first-name basis – and if we don’t know your name, we know you by what your coffee drink order is.”

Albany isn’t an area known for its nightlife, save a few bars and sit-down restaurants. Hal’s After Hours just might offer residents an ideal evening sweet spot between a hard-booze watering hole and full-meal dining.

“We just put our beer-and-wine license in the window, and everybody is so excited,” Abraham ssaid. “The amount of support that existing customers and the community have shown has been really awesome.”

Oh, and fret not, caffeinated ilk: Hal’s Office will still offer its evening patrons some items from its regular coffee menu, like empanadas from Firebrand, as well as cookies, quiche and pastries. Keep your eye out for After Hours’ opening at the end of the month, just in time to celebrate the tailend of our region’s chaotic weather.