Perched in every cushioned corner, dozens of nocturnal coffee lovers armed with their technology of choice nest at The Night Owl Lounge.
For a little more than a year, the eclectic café has provided Downtown Fullerton’s community with a late-night place to study, socialize or step into the local music and art scene—all over a cup of coffee.
Advertising “All week 10 a.m. till Late,” the Night Owl sets its hours by its customers, not an eight-hour workday.
“We never close any earlier than 1:30 a.m. and usually close around 3 a.m. or so. It really depends on the flow of people,” said barista Kelly Waugh, 21, senior at Cal State Fullerton. Waugh said she has worked at the café since it opened in December 2011.
Co-owners Joe Rosati, 56, and Bob Anderson, 61, founded The Night Owl as a place “where artists, musicians and like-minded people could come together and enjoy each other’s diversity and complexity,” according to the café’s website.
Live solo musicians in a richly curtained alcove of the café perform songs for the sleepless. It’s a Saturday night and a young singer with a crooning twang like a country guitar runs through his own acoustic repertoire of songs by Death Cab for Cutie, The Killers and Green Day.
According to Waugh and The Night Owl’s website, the tip jar that sits on a stool across from the musicians not only collects money for the performers of these “indie” and “alternative” songs, but also for the community.
The Night Owl “matches dollar for dollar” every tip the musicians receive and anonymously donates the money in the form of a gift card to a local family in need.
The coffee shop features local musicians and artists with “open mic nights” every Tuesday and art galleries that run approximately every month, Waugh said.
Vibrant images of stylized, owl-eyed women and their feathered friends hang on the café walls between curtained windows, creating colored points of intensity among the passive, earthy hues.
The gallery feature “Girls with Owls,” by Fullerton artist Holly Bliss, 23, began in August and will run through the end of October.
“I started coming here more and more frequently and now that my artwork is up here, it’s kind of become my favorite place. It’s an awesome spot,” said Bliss.
Love for The Night Owl also extends to the café’s Facebook page.
“We enjoy your inspiring photos and intense amounts of delicious coffee,” wrote Aaron Spreier, a Facebook user, on Sept. 18.
Even those who proclaim their dislike of promotions posted praise for the café. “I’m normally not the endorsing type,” said customer Ryan Pena in a Facebook post in March. “But damn it, this place has secured a spot in my blackened, tar riddled, heart.”
The café, sitting on the corner of Harbor Boulevard and Amerige Avenue, offers coffee and tea choices apparently designed for the college student budget.
All drinks cost less than $5 and refills cost 50 cents, the cheapest beverage being the home roast priced at $1.75 for a “regular” size.
In comparison, the four independent Starbucks locations in Fullerton—excluding those on the CSUF campus and in shopping outlets—sell its smallest and cheapest coffee for $2, no refills offered.
In addition to drawing college crowds, The Night Owl also attracts officers of the Fullerton Police Department.
Cpl. Sam Contino, 51, and his partner walk into the café in full uniform on their beat for a cup of the caffeine standard that’s “as good as Starbucks.”
“I come to The Night Owl with my partner once or twice a week around midnight, one o’clock,” Contino said, whose beat runs until four in the morning. “My partner and I are in charge of everything in Downtown Fullerton, all the businesses. Before this place even opened I had to approve it—that’s how I knew about it.”
In addition to standard Styrofoam to-go cups, coffee also may be served in a ceramic mug for those who choose to nestle in for a while.
Of course, in keeping with the unique theme of the lounge, none of the mugs match.
Elegantly scrawled on a blackboard menu behind the register, white chalk displays the different drinks and prices, and also boasts the lounge’s specific attributes.
“We pride ourselves in customizing drinks for you,” it says in a cloud bubble. “We only serve organic fair-trade coffee,” says another.