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Gage takes first step to add restaurant to marina



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October 20, 2010 | 08:38 AM
Williams Bay — Gage Marine took its first step toward de-industrializing and re-purposing its Williams Bay location, adding a family restaurant and tavern to its boat repair and storage facility at 4 Liechty Drive.

On Oct. 11, the Williams Bay Plan Commission unanimously recommended that Gage be granted a conditional use permit for the proposed changes.

The conditional use must be approved by the Village Board, said Don Weyhrauch, Village Board president and chairman of the Plan Commission.

The property is already zoned for business and the proposed new use of the land is appropriate, Weyhrauch said. A conditional use permit is needed anytime a business use changes, he added.

Variance may be needed

Weyhrauch said Gage's proposal may also require a variance, meaning it may also have to go before the village's Zoning Board of Appeals. Gage's conditional use permit was not on the Village Board agenda for Monday, Oct. 18.

The building which would house the restaurant is an existing nonconforming structure because of setbacks, said Village Attorney Mark Schroeder.

A variance would be required if there were changes to the building where the restaurant will be located. Gage said during the meeting that he does not plan any changes to that building's basic structure, which may allow him to avoid applying for a variance.

Gage Marine has long been known for its cruise line, which operates out of Lake Geneva, and for its boat storage and boat repair operations in Williams Bay. The company also puts its name on the Gage Hacker wooden speed boats, which are manufactured in Boyne City, Mich.

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Gage has also applied for a $10,000 liquor license from the village, Weyhrauch said. The company already holds a liquor license from the city of Lake Geneva, because it serves drinks on some of its cruise boats, he said.

License applied for

Gage's renovation plan, formally presented to the commission last Monday, calls for a transformation of the Gage Marine site from light industrial use of boat storage and repair to light entertainment with indoor and outdoor dining. The changes would be the most radical in the history of the Gage site, which has been a boat storage and repair marina since at least 1878, according to Gage's written proposal. The Gage property in Williams Bay has about 260 feet of lake shoreline.

The regional news was not able to attend the meeting, but the meeting was recorded and a reporter listened to the tape. The first three minutes of the meeting were missing because of technical problems, according to Village Clerk Jacqueline Hopkins.

There are several residential condominiums near the Gage property. Residents' primary concerns seemed to be with traffic and noise. Although one resident, who was unidentified, said he was concerned about plans for an indoor and outdoor bar at the restaurant. Customers who have had too much to drink might try to pilot their boats from the marina, he said.

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While owner Bill Gage said the investment in the changes to the marina property would be considerable, he did not specify an amount at the Plan Commission meeting. Gage was out of state after the meeting, and could not be contacted for this story.

On the tape, Gage said he wants to work with neighbors to ensure that the new use of the property is done in a way that is friendly to the neighbors.

"We will continue to seek your consultations as we evolve our plans," Gage said.

The project was brought to the neighbors' attention more than two months ago, Gage said.

Neighbors invited

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According to Weyhrauch, Gage invited neighbors to walk the property and review the plans before he brought the request for a conditional use to the Plan Commission.

On the issue of noise, Gage said the restaurant and bar were to be family-oriented. Music would be indoors and there would be no outdoor live bands.

Closing times for the restaurant would vary according to the season, but the latest closing time, 11 p.m., would be during the summer months, when business was heaviest.

A traffic report Gage submitted to the Plan Commission indicated no significant increases caused by the restaurant.

A plan commissioner asked whether it would be economically feasible to close earlier than 11 p.m.

"No," replied Gage. The said the 11 p.m. closing time was needed to make the restaurant and bar work financially.

But he promised that the dining area would always be a family venue.

"There's 'Animal House,' and 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,'" said Gage. "We're 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.'"

Gage said that after summer, restaurant hours would be dialed back, anyway.

"During 330 to 340 days of the year, we're going to be closed before then, anyway," he said.

Obligation to employees

Gage said the economy is that main reason for the changes in the Williams Bay marina. Customers were asking for lakeside places to dine, he said. And Gage Marine has to evolve to remain viable and in business, he said.

"Inland Marine and Geneva Lake Boat Co. went out of business because they stayed (in the business of) fixing engines," Gage said. "I have an obligation to the 50 people (employed at Gage) who make a living and pay their mortgages and pay their real estate taxes who are a part of the community and keep this business viable. I have to make the hard decisions and hard investments."

The new restaurant is expected to create 40 new summer jobs.

Marina will change

According to plans submitted by Gage:

- The restaurant, kitchen and bar would be located in the 6,000 square foot building located closest to the lake at the east end of the property. Open air dining and the outdoor bar would be to the south on a canopied patio. Counting tables and chairs marked on the drawing, the indoor dining would seat about 77 and the patio dining would seat 65.

- The indoor bar would seat 16, and outdoor bar 14.

- A smaller building, just south of the proposed restaurant, would also have a private dining room.

- Marina parking has 94 standard parking spaces, and moorings for 44 boats.

- The facades of the buildings would be changed to a "lake shingle style."

- Side yards and the area of the lake front near the restaurant would be landscaped.

- Will reduce runoff, increase site absorption and improve lake quality.

- Remove welding, metal and fabrication from the site.

- The business change would mean more foot, boat and auto traffic, fewer trucks, tractors and forklifts.

- Outdoor lighting would be improved.

Gage is moving its industrial operations, like welding, out of the Williams Bay location to other locations along the lake, Weyhrauch said. Plans show that Gage would continue boat repair and storage in three other buildings on the site.

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