12. BREWWORKS at The Party Source (1996 - 1998)
& JILLIAN'S (1998 - 2006)
RENOVATING THE BAVARIAN BREWERY
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 or throwing 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.
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.
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. This enabled him 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.)
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
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. The renovation received a great deal of attention in the local press. Photos of the logo used for BrewWorks are represented in the far left images in the top row below. On the same row there is a photo of the former Bavarian Brew and Mill Houses, which became BrewWorks. On the far right there is a wooden image of this structure, a very close likeness to the way it actually looked. On the lower row below, the far left photo of a portion of The Party Source shows 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 4B. The Brewery Tunnels.)
The photos below mostly depict the interior of BrewWorks and were 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 Party Source’s deli and seating areas are shown in the middle photo. The other photos depict the bar and brewing areas of BrewWorks. The woman in the lower center photo viewing the brewing operations of BrewWorks is Virginia Schott, the daughter-in-law of Will Schott, husband of Will's youngest son Lou and mother of L. Ried Schott.
WYNKOOP BREWING CO. OPERATES BREWWORKS
BrewWorks was open for only eight months when 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, the transaction ended Party Source’s involvement with the property, while Ken Lewis continued to operate a Party Works business next to BrewWorks in addition to another in Bellevue, KY. Wynkoop was established in Denver in 1988 and specialized in operating brewpubs. Changes made by the new operator was an expansion of the limited food operations in place; Wynkoop also allowed 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. BrewWorks permanently closed after about 18 months in operation. Jillian's concept was similar to the entertainment chain Dave & Busters’, featuring food, drink and entertainment. It was established in 1988, had approximately 20 locations and was based in Louisville, KY. However, the property would subsequently undergo a substantial $5 million renovation and become Jillian's largest facility. The new Jillian's had 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 an outdoor deck, as well as the chain’s first bowling alley with 20 lanes. It also held 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. Jillian's primary goal was to become the top entertainment megaplex and sports viewing center in the Greater Cincinnati area, for both adults and families. Jillian's renovation took several months; it opened in December, 1998. Please see the ads below.
The Cincinnati Area CAMMY Awards
The Jillian's complex was the perfect venue to showcase music competitions involving regional music artists at the Cincinnati Area Pop Music Awards (CAMMYs). These were typically held in the spring and showcased 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 listed.
CAMMY Concerts & Awards were held at Jillian's annually.
Jillian's Faces Challenges
Jillian's had been expanding rapidly - it operated 35 locations before the millennium in 2000 and acquired over $40 million in loans to fund this expansion. When these loans were due in 2001, the parent company for Jillian's was unable to pay them 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 placed in charge of this entity and it was headquartered in the same city as before: Louisville, KY.
The Jillian's location in Covington also faced 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. It was 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 growth was relatively stagnant and the locals were somewhat constrained on dollars spent for entertainment, lower-than-expected spending 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 remaining Jillian's facilities became JBC Entertainment Corp in Louisville, KY. However, the operations from their locations had not become profitable as expected, and the Jillian's institution in Covington was closed in July of 2006, less than eight years after its opening. Ken Lewis remained the owner of the property, and he soon listed it for sale with the hopes that it could serve as a multi-use property. The property remained vacant for over a year, but it ultimately was sold in early 2008 to a Kentucky company that owned hotels and casinos.