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Entertainment option still open for theater



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Etten (click for larger version)
September 10, 2013 | 01:55 PM
An arts and entertainment venue at the Geneva Theater is still not out of the question.

In a reply to an emailed query sent by the Lake Geneva Regional News last week, Bill Jachimek of Phoenix, the new owner of the theater, said he's still investigating the possibility of keeping the theater an entertainment venue.

However, Jachimek said that to make that work, the Geneva Theater will need a liquor license and it will need to keep the area in front of the theater clear as a bus drop-off point.

No liquor license is currently available in Lake Geneva, and the city is currently reviewing and revising a parking study that shows the city has a parking deficit in the summer.

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Adding parking on the city streets is one way to address that deficit.

"My original plan was to turn the building into retail space but after talking with the Save The Theater Group (Friends of Geneva Theater) I promised to make every effort in keeping it as an entertainment venue," Jachimek wrote in his Sept. 5 email.

The problem facing anyone trying to use the theater for the performing arts, is that the Geneva Theater is smaller than most theaters that have been preserved, Jachimek said.

"The original theater itself is small as theaters go. It is about 45 feet wide," Jachimek wrote. "Most theaters that have reinvented themselves are at least twice the size. The more recent addition does little good to enlarge the space because it is actually a separate building with its own walls. When you have a production or a talent booked into the theater it costs the same whether you have 300 seats or 900 seats. In a smaller venue you are limited to what you can bring in and still make a profit."

Still, Jachimek said he's been in touch with Ron Onesti, owner of the Arcada Theater in St. Charles, Ill.

Although the Arcada is slightly larger than the Geneva, Onesti believes that the Geneva would have a chance of success, Jachimek said.

Jachimek said Onesti has met with his management group and with the Friends.

According to Jachimek, Onesti thinks that a liquor license would be essential for the theater's commercial success.

"We found out that there are no liquor licenses available," Jachimek told the Regional News.

"When we looked over the list of licenses out there, some seemed to be used very little. We will put out some feelers and see if any might be for sale. We have $100,000 in our budget to buy one, but to be honest we don't have a clue what they are worth.

"It must be like most things, supply and demand."

A call to Onesti went unanswered as of Tuesday morning.

And then, there is the parking issue.

The space in front of the Geneva Theater must remain free of parking, Jachimek said.

"Our business plan includes bringing buses of tourists into town that are touring Wisconsin to see afternoon and evening shows," he wrote. "It is critical that the parking remains the same in front of the theater for buses. If the city wants to destroy any future chances for this great old building, all it has to do is take away the drop-off space in front and install meters."

Jachimek also has advertised for help in developing the theater.

On the building is a red and white sign that reads: "Retail/restaurant/live entertainment.

Available 10,000 square feet. Lease/joint venture/remodel to suit. (602) 618-1154."

Ken Etten, Lake Geneva architect and president of the Friends of the Geneva Theater, said his communications with Jachimek keep him optimistic that the theater might still see live performances in the near future.

However, he said he's also realistic about the need for the building to make a profit to keep standing.

"I have no idea what his long-term plans are," Etten said Monday about Jachimek and the Geneva Theater building. "It's all kind of still up in the air."

In his email, Jachimek promised to keep the Regional News updated on his plans for the Geneva Theater building.

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