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The Daily
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Retro Tavern slated for long-vacant space just off Capitol Square
Brink Lounge owners postpone ALRC appearance as they build neighborhood support
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So... what's behind that mysterious brick facade?
So... what's behind that mysterious brick facade?
Credit:Linda Falkenstein

Curt and Matt Brink, proprietors of the Brink Lounge, have announced plans to open the Retro Tavern at 111 W. Main St., in the long-vacant spot that once was briefly home to "Que Sera" and prior to that, "Going My Way," a three-level gay bar and disco. Today the rest of the block is occupied with Genna's, the Tornado Room, the Shamrock, the Paradise and the Frequency.

Nice to see that old, windowless space get new life, right? Not so fast. Neighbors voiced concerns that yet another bar on the block would increase noise and that having nearly every storefront on the same block be a bar is undesirable.

In an telephone interview, Matt Brink said that he has decided to postpone going before the city Alcohol License and Review Committee on Wednesday, Sept. 29, as was previously planned, in order to spend more time making sure the neighbors are comfortable with all aspects of the Retro Tavern plan.

"We want to finish out the block in the best way we can," says Brink. "We want to be different from the other businesses, but not too different."

Planned is a main floor with a bar, full food menu, television screens, and live music -- "mostly background music," adds Brink. The second floor will be focused on entertainment -- pool tables, classic pinball, couches for lounging. The basement level would be reserved for private parties.

Brink reports that they have already made several changes in the plan in response to neighborhood concerns, increasing the food component and deciding to close parts of the business an hour before bartime when all three levels are occupied, i.e., when a private party is being held on the lower level.

The Brinks have also hired an outside firm to survey the current numbers of people and decibel levels on the 100 block of West Main on most nights. Brink says that combined max total occupancy of the businesses in the block right now is 650 persons (not 1000, as he says has previously been stated). In their surveys, the head count at any given time never approaches that max, he says, instead coming in at the 250-300 person range: "It's rare that businesses are at full capacity at bar time" or indeed at any given time.

Moreover, the Brinks don't want Retro to be a "college bar" per se, but to attract an older crowd looking for a place to get together with friends, relax after an Overture show or "to be entertained in ways other than just drinking," says Brink. He points to the block's peaceful reputation and its few police calls and to their experience with running the Brink Lounge as assurance that things won't get out of hand. He has letters of support from all the other businesses on the block as well as 15 neighbors.

So... what's behind that mysterious brick facade? "It's actually pretty nice in there," Brink says with a laugh. "There is carpet, some exposed brickwork, some drywall. We'll do some painting, put in new flooring, leave the brick." A drop ceiling will eventually be replaced. The second floor, though, looks more dated and would need more work. The lighting there is "older" says Brink. "It's hard to describe."

And the brick front has to stay, due to design issues, but Brink wants to open the doorway foyer as much as possible and put glass in new doors to give the interior as much access as possible to natural light.

Waiting a month to go before the ALRC isn't a problem, says Brink, who wants to get neighbors comfortable with the business. He notes he has not put any money into the building yet and isn't hampered by any firm schedule.

"We just want the extra time to alleviate concerns," says Brink.

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