'Game-changing' project finally underway in downtown Antioch
Doubters of the long-stalled Rivalry Alehouse project in downtown Antioch received an emphatic answer Monday as the $1.5 million project officially got underway.
After nearly two years in the making, project partners say they have secured financing and are eager to start what has been described as a game-changer for the area.
"I know we can make a difference bringing more people downtown," said Jimmy Donohoe, who will own and operate the Irish-German bar/restaurant.
Work is expected to be complete in the fall.
"So many people have been all over us, 'When? When? When?' We're excited," Donohoe told about 75 local officials, family, friends and well wishers inside the former Flo's Family Hair Care at Main Street (Route 83) and Lake Street on the downtown's southern entry.
Flo's had been in business 43 years before closing, and the building has been vacant about three years. Several other businesses have occupied the space through the years, including a National Tea grocery store and, originally, a diner-style restaurant called the Cupboard.
Village officials in spring 2018 endorsed the concept for a makeover of the sore-thumb property and later agreed to provide a $200,000 incentive as well as a portion of a municipal parking lot.
In the interim, the design was revised to include concepts and materials to be reminiscent of Antioch in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The modified incentive agreement approved last August said the changes would save on construction costs and provide a "more visually striking and complementary facade" as the public face of the building.
Third-party financing became an issue, however, due to circumstances beyond their control, according to the village. The interior of the single-story corner building was gutted but the project languished until financing was secured around Thanksgiving.
Aspects of the plan that haven't changed include adding a second floor to be used as an event space. A rooftop terrace overlooking Main Street and a beer garden also remain in the plan.
To protect its interest, the village will require varying percentages of the incentive to be repaid if Rivalry closes within five years.
"We want to let people know it's official and it will be open," Donohoe said before the event.
Donohoe also owns and operates The Lodge, a Northwoods-themed bar serving pub food just north on Main Street. He was joined at Monday's ceremony by longtime friend, building owner and village Trustee Jerry Johnson.
"Snailhouse no more," Johnson joked, in reference to the slow pace of getting the project moving. Johnson and fellow Trustee Ed Macek, an insurance agent, have recused themselves from deliberations and voting on the incentive package.
"People have to understand the partnership. It's an investment," said Mayor Larry Hanson. "I would hope it will trigger more economic development."