Long-awaited Rivalry Alehouse set to open Monday in downtown Antioch
More than three years after the concept was approved, a major project intended as a game changer for downtown Antioch is set for public debut.
Private parties have been held, and "friends and family" events leading to a VIP ribbon cutting continue through the weekend, before the general public opening of Rivalry Alehouse at 11 a.m. Monday.
Getting to this point has been highly anticipated by downtown business and property owners, as well as village officials who invested public assets in what is considered a transformative project. The $2.5 million repurposing and expansion of the former Flo's Family Hair Care at Main and Lake streets has faced lengthy delays and increasing costs.
"This is a difference maker in downtown," building owner Jerry Johnson said of the Irish-German bar/restaurant/event venue. "I don't know how many people have reached out to me -- we're creating a destination."
Johnson, former village trustee who lost a bid for a third term in April, has partnered with longtime friend Jimmy Donohoe on the project. Donohoe, proprietor of the Northwoods-themed bar just north on Main Street, will operate Rivalry.
The space had been home to a National Tea grocery store and other businesses. Flo's opened in the 1970s and operated for 43 years before closing about five years ago. The building remained vacant and was considered an eyesore before the Rivalry project.
The building was gutted and the interior reshaped. A second story with front and back rooftop terraces has been added, and an elevator is being installed.
"These owners have made a significant investment in Antioch," said village Trustee Mary Dominiak, the board's liaison for economic development, planning and zoning.
"They put in a lot of money and it's been a long haul for them," she said.
Delays in the project initially ensued as the partners secured financing. The pandemic resulted in material shortages, cost increases and more delays. The budget during a ceremonial groundbreaking in January 2020 was estimated at $1.5 million. That now stands at about $2.5 million, Johnson said.
The village board in spring 2018 endorsed the concept and later agreed to a provide a $200,000 performance-based grant for equipment and a portion of a municipal parking lot.
Johnson recused himself from all discussions, but appearances became an issue in the campaign.
"We all took heat for voting for that," Dominiak said.
The goal was to eliminate an eyesore and create momentum for new restaurants and businesses, she said.
Today, construction of a new restaurant called Station 51 continues about a block north, and two other restaurants are planned.
The Rivalry project is a "really great example" of a public-private partnership and a key in an upward trajectory for downtown, said Dominiak, who has lived in Antioch for nearly 25 years.
"It's going to generate more traffic at night," she said. "I'm excited about what Antioch will look like a year from now and five years from now."