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12. BREWWORKS at The Party Source (1996 - 1998)
& JILLIAN'S (1998 - 2006)
RENOVATING THE BAVARIAN BREWERY
The Vision

Justin Schneider owned the former Bavarian Brewery property for three decades before he decided to sell it in the mid-1990s. He reportedly asked for $3.5 million, about 25 times what he had originally paid for in 1967. To justify paying such a price for a property with buildings that had been neglected for decades and were in horrendous condition, it was crucial for the potential buyer to have a clear vision of what the property would be used for, along with the knowledge and financial means to follow through on that vision. A successful businessman, Ken Lewis, began working on a concept to redevelop the brewery in 1995; it’s possible that he had first become interested in the property a year or two earlier. Lewis had founded a chain of stores called Liquor Outlet in 1984 in Louisville, KY, later changing the name to Party Source in 1992. His stores provided a large variety of liquor, food, and other items that supported entertaining and having parties, leading to their distinct new name. His first super store was situated in Bellevue, KY, just east of Covington, KY, and across the Ohio River from Cincinnati.

Bavarian Brewery Before Renovation in 1995, Covington, KY

Lewis’s vision was to create the largest Party Source yet by renovating the Bavarian Brewery and turning the brewery's castle-like structure (consisting of the former Mill and Brew Houses) into a brewpub called BrewWorks. This was intended to serve freshly micro-brewed beers and ales in an event space with rooms to dine and party. The 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 itself that posed a possible obstacle. Since the buildings were neglected and in poor condition, the renovation costs would also be substantial. The overall cost for such a project would be difficult to support financially without firm plans for proper and ultimately profitable use, along with possibly some government assistance.

The Redevelopment

In October of 1995, Lewis reported that he had acquired the former Bavarian Brewery. Although 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 to be around $9 million, and it appears the cost of the property may have been about one-half of what was initially asked, or just 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. Shown is a copy of the certificate confirming that the Bavarian Brewing building was placed on this register. This was obtained in March 1996 during the construction period and several months before BrewWorks at the Party Source opened. By having this certification, it allowed Lewis to obtain a federal incentive providing a 20 percent tax credit against renovation costs. In addition, under a state program, the building materials and furnishings purchased for the renovation were exempt from a 6 percent state sale tax, which was about $300,000.

These benefits helped make the redevelopment project more feasible to undertake. Lewis made arrangements to renovate the buildings with a local firm in the Cincinnati area, Megen Construction, which was only three years old at that time. (Please see the sidebar.)

MEGEN CONSTRUCTION

This minority firm was founded by Evans Nwankwo in 1993. The restoration of the brewery was one of its largest projects. But Lewis was confident that they would be able to deliver in costs and meet the required timeframe. Since then, Megen Construction Co. had enjoyed considerable growth and has been very successful in constructing buildings not only in the Cincinnati area, but around the country. See www.megenconstruction.com

The Opening of BrewWorks at the Party Source

After only about a year of renovation, the refurbished multi-use property included The Party Source and BrewWorks; it opened in November 1996. There was a good deal of promotion before the opening, as indicated by the promotional pamphlet below. Additonally the renovation received a great deal of attention in the local press with a 20 page newspaper supplement covering BrewWorks, with the front cover shown below. To access the entire supplement, please click here.

When BrewWorks first opened they had a menu as shown by its cover below. To view the entire menu food offerings back in 1996, please click here. BrewWorks had a microbrewery and offered their own signature beers. These beer offerings are shown below. They feature some unique names, but also one of the former brews at the brewery, Schott Ale, and a porter named for the nearby Devou Park. This information was supplied courtesy of Dave Gausepohl who worked closely with Ken Lewis in opening BrewWorks and was in charge of its wide inventory of beers when the establishment opened.