13. The Former Bavarian Brewery Acquired By
COLUMBIA SUSSEX CORP.
& The SAVE THE BAVARIAN MOVEMENT (20008 - 2015)
COLUMBIA SUSSEX PLACES A BET
Columbia Sussex (CS) is a family owned hotel business and was established in 1972 by William Jung III, who presides over the firm. It is based in Crestview Hills, KY, which is located in Kenton County, as is the city of Covington and the former Bavarian Brewery property. Jung acquired this property that was occupied by Jillian's and owed by Ken Lewis for $7 million in January, 2008. He did so speculating that Kentucky State Legislature and residents would approve of gambling and that he would acquire a gambling license for this property, which would become a casino. A photo of the property shortly after it was acquired by Jung is on the side.
To improve his odds in making the property a casino, Jung poured $1,038,500 into Democratic political funds that helped get Governor Steve Beshear elected, even though Jung had previously been a Republican supporter. Then he gave $10,000 to Beshear's inauguration fund. A few years earlier, CS made a major commitment to enter the casino market. At the time the noted property was acquired, CS owned 13 casinos, along with 89 hotels. But the Financial Crisis was occurring and placed particularly the casino properties CS owned under a great deal of financial pressure. This required certain financial decisions, resulting massive layoffs of many workers in his casinos, which were not well received. In three of the states where his casinos were located, Jung was being investigated for extraordinary layoffs and extreme cost cutting, according to an article by Janet Patton in the Lexington-Herald Leader on February 10, 2008. There was also some speculation that this effort to turn the former brewery in Covington into a casino was to alleviate the financial problems he was facing. According to the article referenced, Jung created some displeasure with local authorities who believed that Covington and other river communities would have some say in the location of a future casino and share in some of its profits, which didn't occur.
The measure to approve gambling in Kentucky failed the year after Jung had acquired the former brewery property. In the meantime, residents in Ohio had passed a law that allowed casinos. Especially after this law was passed, the prospects for casinos in Kentucky were essentially eliminated. Within four years a casino was built in downtown Cincinnati next to the Great American Ballpark known as the Horseshoe Casino (now a Hard Rock Casino), not far from the former brewery. No longer able to develop the property he wanted to be a casino, Jung demolished some smaller brewery properties in 2009 and listed the property for sale at the excessive amount he paid for it. Over the next few years, Jung and his firm neglected the remaining buildings on the site, without providing any repairs or security. Despite some $14 million that had been invested in the buildings, they deteriorated rapidly. CS probably viewed these structures as a potential liability and may have thought this could be eliminated by demolishing all structures on the site. The City of Covington had previously allowed Jung to demolish some of the secondary buildings on the site, but only on the condition he would not demolish the larger and more iconic historic structures.
The above photos were taken in 2015 and shown what are essentially four different structures that are connected together. The upper right shows the Mill House and the Brew House, plus part of the original Stock House on the far left. Beside it is the foundation of a former Ice House that was located on the far right of the image on the left. On the second row far left is a view of the original Stock House on the left, the Brew House in the center and the Mill House on the far right. The bottom right photo depicts the Stock House, looking south. The original Stock House protrudes outward on the far right, with the Stock House Addition somewhat recessed and comprising most of the view.
However, in the fall of 2014, Jung applied to the City of Covington for a zoning application to remove the remaining historic buildings. Jung also claimed the demolitions were necessary to make the property more attractive to potential purchasers. Most other former breweries in the Cincinnati area, which had been a vibrant part of the area's heritage, had previously been razed for development. So, Jung's effort to eliminate the architecturally significant brewery structures alarmed many residents, historians and local officials. Before Jung was able to demolish these remaining brewery buildings, he was required to seek approval through Covington's Urban Design Review Board. This spurred a grass roots movement by area residents to save these former brewery buildings.
SAVE THE BAVARIAN
In an effort to preserve the brewery buildings, Doug Newberry created a website called SaveTheBavarian. He also posted an appeal on Change.com for people to join together to protest Columbia Sussex efforts to demolish the brewery buildings. Some 1,150 people joined this effort. Another active area resident who opposed the demolition was Dave Gausepohl, or "Beer Dave" as he is known. Dave had relatives who worked in the brewery, was an employee at at BrewWorks (when the former brewery was renovated) and has been active in local Breweriana organizations. ( See Breweriana.) To gain more attention, a large laser display was reflected against the building, as shown by the photo on the right.
When the Urban Design Review Board met in November, 2014, they heard from the men mentioned as well as others, and received many letters and emails supporting the the preservation of the historic buildings. This Board decided to reject the motion by Columbia Sussex to demolish the Bavarian structures. The developer had other avenues they could purse. However, with a portfolio of around 40 hotel properties and being one of the largest holders of Marriott properties with over 30, there was no need for CS to make an immediate decision about the Bavarian property. The Jung family must have also realized they were developing negative publicity surrounding their name and their firm.