Former Gobbler restaurant being converted to live music venue

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Tom Daykin/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Sunday, June 1, 2014

The former Gobbler Restaurant, known for its revolving bar, purple shag carpeting on the walls and turkey-centric menu, is being converted into a concert venue.

Renamed the Gobbler Theater, it could be hosting live events by the end of the year, said new owner Daniel Manesis.

The 16,544-square-foot circular building, which sits on 9.2 acres just south of I-94 and west of Highway 26 in Johnson Creek, was sold to Manesis & Associates LLC for $635,000, according to state real estate records posted Tuesday.

Manesis said he will spend about $1 million converting the building, which has been vacant for several years, into a venue for concerts and comedy shows. The building will be able to seat about 500 patrons, he said.

“There's a lot of smaller bands looking to fill a 400- to 500-seat venue,” said Manesis, who owns Daniel A. Manesis Transportation Inc., a West Allis trucking firm.

The Village Board has approved the project, and the internal demolition is to begin within a month, he said. The venue could be open by the end of this year, or by spring of 2015, Manesis said.

Manesis plans to remove the kitchen and replace it with a stage. The Gobbler Theater will feature stadium seating.

The former restaurant's circular bar, which slowly revolves, will remain, he said. The bar makes one revolution each 80 minutes, according to buythegobbler.com.

The venue will likely compete for touring acts that might otherwise go to such venues as The Rave, in Milwaukee, and Madison's Overture Center, Manesis said.

He acknowledged that he knows little about the entertainment business.

“I think they key is to surround yourself with good people who know how to do it,” Manesis said.

The Gobbler Restaurant, named for its turkey entrees, was opened in 1969 by the Hartwig family, who also once operated a nearby poultry farm and turkey processing plant.

It was a popular supper club throughout the 1970s before its star began to fade. The Hartwig family closed the Gobbler in 1992. A Mexican restaurant opened in the building in 1995, but later closed.

A village report said the building has been vacant for over a decade, but Manesis said its owners have maintained it. According to state records, the property was sold by Gobbler Restaurant Inc., led by Marvin Havill and Darryl Spoerl, who operate car dealerships in Jefferson County.

“It was a very wonderfully built building,” Manesis said.

According to buythegobbler.com, “This building was built like a bomb shelter—built to last and with quality materials. The outside walls are made of concrete and Mexican lava imported from a volcano in Mexico along with quartz crystal.”

Local officials are happy to see the building being remodeled for a new use, said Village Administrator Mark Johnsrud.

“The Gobbler was really a landmark I think everybody associated with Johnson Creek,” he said.

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