12. BREWWORKS at The Party Source (1996 - 1998)
& JILLIAN'S (1998 - 2006)
RENOVATING THE BAVARIAN BREWERY
After the former Bavarian Brew property was owned for three decades by Justin Schneider, he desired to sell it in the mid 1990s. Reportedly, he was asking $3.5 million, about 25 times what he originally paid for it in 1967. To justify paying such a price for a property with buildings that had been neglected for decades and in horrendous condition, it was necessary for someone to have a clear vision of what it could become, and have the knowledge and financial means to follow through. A successful businessman, Ken Lewis, began working on a concept to redevelop the brewery in 1995, and maybe earlier in 1994. Lewis founded a chain of stores called Liquor Outlet in 1984 in Louisville, KY, and then changed the name to the Party Source in 1992. His stores have provided a large variety of liquors, foods and other items that supported entertaining, or having a party; hence, the name. His first super store was in Bellevue, KY, just east of Covington, KY, and across the Ohio River from Cincinnati.
His vision was to create the largest Party Source by renovating the Bavarian Brewery, but in addition, utilize the brewery's castle like structure (consisting of the former Mill and Brew Houses) as a brewpub, called BrewWorks. It would serve freshly micro-brewed beers and ales along with having places to dine and party. This concept was ahead of its time, as the trend for micro-breweries was in its infancy. However, it was not just the price for the property that was a possible obstacle. Since the buildings were neglected and in horrible condition, the renovation costs would be substantial. The overall cost of such a project would be difficult support financially without having the proper use, along with possibly some financial assistance.
In October of 1995, Lewis reported that he acquired the former Bavarian Brewery. Even though the sale price for the property was not initially disclosed, the total cost of the project was later reported to be approximately $11 million. The renovation costs were stated around $9 million, and it appears the cost of the property may have been about one-half of what was asked, or somewhat under $2 million. By working with Kenton County, KY, as well as city and state historians, Lewis was able to have the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This enabled him to obtain a federal incentive providing a 20 percent tax credit against renovation costs. In addition, under a state program, building material and furnishings purchase for the renovation were exempt from a 6 percent state sale tax, which was about $300,000. These tax benefits helped make this redevelopment project more feasible to undertake. Lewis made arrangements to renovate the buildings with a local firm in the Cincinnati area that was only three years old at that time, Megen Construction. (Please see the sidebar.)
This minority firm was founded by Evans Nwankwo in 1993. The restoration of the brewery was one of the largest projects for that firm. But Lewis was confident that they would be able to deliver in both costs and in the required time frame. Since then, Megen Construction Co. had considerable growth and been very successful in constructing buildings not only in the Cincinnati area, but around the country. See
The Opening of BrewWorks at the Party Source
Taking only about a year to renovate, the multi-use property included The Party Source and BrewWorks and opened in November, 1996. It received a great deal of notoriety in the local press. Photos of the logo used for BrewWorks are the far left images in the top row below. On the same row is a photo of the former Bavarian Brew and Mill Houses, which became BrewWorks. On the far right is a wood image of this structure, which is very similar to the way it actually looked. On the lower row below, the far left photo of a portion of The Party Source has an image of a label used by the Bavarian Brewing Co. for Cincinnati's Pride Brand Beer, brewed in the late 1930's. (Please see Beer Labels for photos of the actual labels for this brand. The lower center photo is the main entrance to BrewWorks with the great grandson of William Riedlin. The lower far right photo is the foundation of the old ice house, which had access to the old lager cellar. (See the Brewery Tunnels.)
The photos below are mostly of the interior of BrewWorks taken in 1996 and 1997. The exterior photo on the far left shows the former Boiler House in green, adjoining the former Bottling Department, Engine Room and Warehouse, which became The Party Source. An interior view of the deli area of the Party Source and seating area is in the middle photo. The other photos depict the bar and brewing areas of BrewWorks.The lady in the lower center photo viewing the brewing operations of BrewWorks is Virginia Schott, the daughter-in-law of Will Schott and husband of Will's youngest son Lou.
WYNKOOP BREWING CO. OPERATES BREWWORKS
After BrewWorks was only opened for eight months, a firm from Denver Co. took over operations of the brewpub near the end of June, 1997. This change occurred with virtually no business interruption, as most employees were retained. However, this transaction excluded the Party Source, which Ken Lewis continued to operate next to BrewWorks, besides another Party Works in Bellevue, KY. Wynkoop was established in Denver in 1988 and specialized in operating brewpubs. One of the changes by the new operator was that the limited food operations were expanded, and Wynkoop provided the ability for individuals to brew their own beer.
JILLIAN'S ACQUIRES THE BREWERY PROPERTY
Only 10 months after Wynnkoop took over BrewWorks, in mid-May of 1998, it was announced that Jillian's would lease and take over both the former BrewWorks and the building occupied by The Party Source. After operating a total of about 18 months, BrewWorks permanently closed. Jillian's concept was similar to Dave & Busters, featuring food, drink and entertainment. It was established in 1988, had approximately 20 locations and based in Louisville, KY. However, the property would undergo a substantial $5 million renovation and become Jillian's largest facility. The new Jillian's would have five floors of entertainment including a dance floor with live band, private party rooms, a sports video cafe, upscale billiard tables, electronic simulation games, and outdoor deck and the chains first bowling alley (with 20 lanes). It would also have a couple restaurants including a new company concept, the Hibachi Grill. Jillian's provided 13,000 square feet to the Queen City Brewing Co., which would produce and sell beer at the club. The primary focus of Jillian's was to become an entertainment megaplex and sports viewing center in the Greater Cincinnati area, for both adults and families. Jillian's renovation required several months and it opened in December, 1998. Please see Jillian's ads below.
The Cincinnati Area CAMMY Awards
The Jillian's complex was the perfect venue to showcase music competition involving regional music artists at the Cincinnati Area Pop Music Awards (CAMMYs). These were typically held in the Spring and would showcase dozens of bands, as shown by the ads below. One of their largest venues, Jillian's Warehouse, could seat 1,923 people. During the third season of American Idol regional competitors also convened at Jillian's in 2003. Around the border on the ad on the far right, all of Jillian's featured attractions are mentioned.
CAMMY Concerts & Awards were held at Jillian's annually.
Jillian's Faces Challenges
Jillian's had been expanding rapidly, having 35 locations before the millennium in 2000 and acquired over $40 million in loans to fund this expansion. When these loans came due in 2001, the parent company for Jillian's was unable to pay off the loans, or have them refinanced. Over the next couple of years Jillian's tried to resolve their financing problems. However, by 2004, the entity that owned all the stores, Jillian's Entertainment Holdings Inc., was forced into bankruptcy. Dave & Busters acquired nine of the largest and newest locations and 19 of the stores, including the one in Covington, were acquired by an investment entity in Boston known as Gemini Investors III. The former president of Jillian's, Dan Smith, was in charge of this entity and it was headquartered in the same city as before, Louisville, KY.
The Jillian's location in Covington also had some competitive challenges. Before Jillian's was opened in Covington, a Dave & Busters was operating in the Cincinnati suburb of Springdale, at I-75 and I-275. In 2001, a few years after Jillian's opened, the Newport Levy restaurant and entertainment complex was opened in Newport, KY, just a few miles away from Jillian's. This new complex was located directly on the Ohio River with fantastic views of downtown Cincinnati. Since Cincinnati's population was relatively stagnant and the area was somewhat constrained on dollars spent for entertainment,it apparently caused some decline in the revenue at Jillian's in Covington location.
After the bankruptcy of Jillian's parent, evidently the entity that acquired most of the remain Jillian's was JBC Entertainment Corp in Louisville, KY. The operations from their locations had not become profitable as expected, and the Jillian's in Covington was closed in July of 2006, after opening less than 8 years earlier. Ken Lewis had remained the owner of the property and he soon listed for sale with hopes it could be used as a multi-use property. The property remained vacant for over a year, but was sold to a company in Kentucky in the beginning of 2008, which owned hotels and casinos.