July 27, 2009

Restaurant planned at former nightclub 'The Bank' in Uptown

Gerald Bester plans to open a new restaurant in Uptown. "Gerald's" will be located at
1501 Washington Ave., the former home of "The Bank" nightclub.

The former nightclub "The Bank" in Racine's Uptown is ready for its next act.

Gerald Bester, of Milwaukee, is preparing to open a restaurant in the space that was once home to the controversial nightclub. Bester is planning to buy the building at 1501 Washington Ave. and turn it into "Gerald's," a restaurant he described as "upscale that's a step below elegant dining and two or three steps above fast food." The restaurant has a smokehouse theme and will serve a variety of specialty items, Bester said.

His plans took an important step forward Monday night. The City Council's Public Safety and Licensing Committee agreed to give Bester an alcohol license as soon as he adds a kitchen capable of serving 150 people in the building.

The committee grilled Bester on his plans, but a strong business plan and an endorsement from the Uptown Business Association won over the aldermen. They unanimously backed Bester's restaurant.

Bester said he plans to build the kitchen toward the end of October. Contractors and plans are lined up for the job, which will actually complete a kitchen started when a restaurant/bar called the "The Vault" was in business about five years ago.

Bester, of Milwaukee, hopes to open "Gerald's" in spring 2010. He has experience running businesses. He now owns a trucking company, which he plans to sell to open the restaurant, and is the former owner of "The Comedy Spot," a comedy club in Milwaukee.

He'll also have some help. Karl Kopp, the owner of Kopp's Frozen Custards in the Milwaukee area, will serve as a mentor. "He's agreed to help in every aspect of the business," Bester said.

The distinctive building at 1501 Washington Ave. (right) is a former bank that was converted into a nightclub in 2000. The interior is beautifully designed with a second-story balcony overlooking the floor.

The building has sat vacant for the last five years after "The Vault," a bar/restaurant that replaced "The Bank" nightclub shut down. "The Bank" was open from 2000 to 2003.

Current owner Linnea Anthony said several people looked at the building, but none were a good fit. "It's been waiting for Gerald," she said.

Richard Kemper, a dentist who lives a few buildings down from the proposed restaurant, spoke in favor of Bester receiving a liquor license as long as he puts in a full kitchen and treats the space more as a restaurant than a bar or nightclub. Kemper, speaking on behalf of the Uptown Business Association, said he was "cautiously optimistic" about Bester's proposal.

"We look forward to 2010," he said.

While the committee backed Bester, they made it near impossible for him to open just a bar at 1501 Washington Ave. Along with a finished kitchen, the committee required Bester to give them a menu, set hours of operation and come back to the committee if he makes any significant changes to his restaurant business plan at any time.

Bester agreed to the changes and the committee gave him the go ahead for a liquor license. The full City Council will vote on the license next week.


  1. Jesus Christ. If this is the same Bester blasted all over CCAP's, the city is a bunch of morons.

    Idiots, I see idiots everywhere.....

  2. So this will NOT be a nightclub then in the later hours of the evening. The city got that in writing right?? It may start out as a "restaurant", but when cheap Racine residents don't go there, it will turn into a nightclub to bring in the $$$$$$. I predict the police being called within the first month or two of business. Watch and see.

  3. "The committee grilled Bester on his plans" CUTE!

  4. I smell a fish.


  5. Linnea Anthony = The Uptown good to see the millions the City spent on the Uptown will allow her to benefit. IMHO perhaps the City could simply buy her building and end the whole mess.
    Of course the Police will be called and called often,your right 5:21

  6. This is very simple - have him sign a contract with the city which states if at any time the restaurant is inoperable, his license is revoked.

  7. Anon 8:45: Based on what I saw at last night's committee meeting, that's what happened. The committee said he can't get a liquor license until he finishes the kitchen, shows a menu and sets his hours.

    But Alderman Maack also included in the motion that if Bester changes his business plan he needs to bring it back to the committee for approval.

    Basically, the committee approved a restaurant last night. If it's anything other than a restaurant, the groundwork appears to be there to shut it down.

    Also, the Uptown Business Association seemed wary of "Gerald's" becoming a nightclub/bar. Dr. Kemper said they were "bamboozled" the last time (with "The Vault") and that the UBA only supported a business that was predominantly a restaurant. Bester seems to have convinced them, because the association backed his business plan.

  8. This is stupid. Remember what happened a few years ago with this place? Sold to the public and alderman as a restaurant, but was really a nightclub with strippers....wait till the Cornerhouse and the eye doctor get wind of this.....Damn, our elected officals are really not the brightest.

  9. He says it is a restaurant. They can only hold him to that. Should they assume everyone is trying to open a nightclub in Racine? Who is being stupid?

  10. Maybe, just maybe he will do as he says and open a nice restaurant. I do think he deserves the chance regardless what the negative nay sayers put forth. Why do people here expect the worst?

  11. I wish him the best. But he's got an uphill battle. I haven't been to the Cornerhouse for year's, and for good reasons.

  12. 11:17

    We come to know the worst.
    Now if Mr. Bester does what he said he is going to do best of luck, if not well hoping the City keeps an eye out.

    Side Bar

    Every $$ we spend on the Uptown Art Project IMHO goes to promote not only the area but those who own property in that area. I fully believe that the major property owners pay a surcharge on sales of property since the City is a major player in real estate sales

  13. He most likely will be renting. It will be short lived.

  14. Linea Anthony7/28/2009 1:12 PM

    When are any of you folks going to become part of the solution for Racine instead of being part of the the problem?
    Uptown, Downtown, West Racine, South-side, etc.etc. we are all part of Racine and need to become a positive force by working together instead of just tearing everything down in blog comments that miss-quote and mislead and lie about the facts. How many of you have done anything constructive either for yourselves or anyone else lately? You all talk a spiteful, prissy game and hide behind your nicknames (that's right Mr. Clingman, I'm "rolling in so much dough" because of all the "City's Help" NOT - that's certainly why I'm in Uptown and not in the south of France on my yacht.) and your cowardly anonymous comments but what have any of you done of benefit - for yourselves or anyone else?
    Start feeling good about yourselves for a change and maybe it won't be so hard for you to give other people the chance to do something positive.
    Linea Anthony

  15. Dustin - I've just visited CCAP as well as the previous poster. Can you please confirm whether or not the Gerald Bester with the long, long record is the gentleman in question? Thanks.

  16. I would love to view the business plan for this establishment. One area to focus on - where are the customers going to come from, how are they going to locate the facility , then where can they park in safety upon arrival?

    I wish him luck, but he might have a better plan if he reopened the bank.

  17. If this is the same guy as on CCAP - he's no good and the city should never have issued a license to him. Don't they do any background checks when they issue licenses?

  18. Bahahah.....Linea Of course this is a positive thing for Racine and it's great and you support it....YOU OWN THE BUILDING!!!! Yes it's the same Bester on CCAP and Yes it will turn into a ghetto nightclub...Don't be fooled council! Remember I warned you!

  19. Linea owns and runs the Uptown, so she thinks.

  20. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Storm-Racine 8:00 AM Wednesday.
    Talking about uptown/Racine Art Relocation project

  21. I just reviewed the 22 CCAP entries for Gerald Bester. Here's the results:

    * No felony charges.
    * Three misdemeanors. One in 2006 for disorderly conduct, one in 2000 for writing a bad check and one in 1996 for obstructing an officer. He spent one day in jail for the DC, paid $331 for the bad check and paid $74 for the obstruction.
    * Two divorces.
    * Four charges dismissed.
    * Two cases were car accidents.
    * Nine cases involved small claims court in which Bester was ordered to repay money he owed. The highest amount was $6,408 to a rental company in 1999.
    * The two remaining cases were an unidentified marriage issue in 1990 and a wage garnishment issue in 1993.

    The criminal cases are clearly minor infractions. The small claims cases appear to be a businessman who missed bill payments.

  22. Dustin - "The criminal cases are clearly minor infractions. The small claims cases appear to be a businessman who missed bill payments".

    Would you hire Bester to be business manager of the Racine Post?

  23. I wonder if this was a white man with the same plan of opening a restraunt in uptown Racine if you all would still have all the negative comments? Racine is a racist town! Everybody running nothing but their mouth and doing a whole lot of nothing to make this a better community. Racine is full of hateful people!

  24. Gerald is buying a building and opening his own restraunt. Why would he need to manage RacinePost? Even when a black man tries you all still cut him down! Losers!

  25. He will have to be on COD with all vendors, he will also have to have a large deposit with the utility companies, unless of course he has someone else who will sign the personal guarantees. If so, I wonder who that might be?

  26. Why is race brought into this??

    OK, now that it is, 2 points:

    (1) For the people who are complaining that Racine is so racist, WHY DO YOU NOT LEAVE??? Go live somewhere racist free. Easy solution.

    (2)Minority loans, gotta love em'. First a Greek, now a Black.

    See how stupid it is to bring race into this?? Go Obama!!!

  27. Good luck Gerald. I hope this works for you. Stay focused and don't let negative, unhappy people bring you down.

  28. For those of you who see a racist behind every comment critical of anyone of color;

    should any person of color who blogs critically of Mayor Dickert be considered a racist? Did every person of color who voted for Bob Turner do so just because he was the most qualified candidate?

    Think long and hard before answering these questions.

  29. I'd be interested if it was a comedy club, much like the one it said he ran in Milwaukee. That would definitely be something different around these parts and give people something fun to do. It would also bring in a better class of clientele to a part of the city that is dying.

  30. anon 8:26 I didn't know greeks are considered a minority please inform.

  31. Anon 11:05

    If you don't think a Greek person is a minority, you are an idiot.

    There are a LOT less Greeks than Blacks.

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  34. Linea Anthony7/29/2009 9:13 PM

    Anonymous comments don't count. If you can't own your comment you don't exist. What ate you afraid of? Cowards! Losers! You Can say anything if you don't own it but then you don't exist. Let's reclaim our voice and exist. No one respectsa a coward.

  35. Linea Anthony7/29/2009 9:17 PM

    Lots of typo's in that one but you should get the point.
    Get with the honesty program. Own your existence - no more anonymous and "cute" blog names. claim your name.

  36. Linea Anthony
    You do not own Uptown
    The Business there would like a voice in the BID they tell me that talking to you without being yell at can not be done.
    IHHO the whole city is tired of the failed Uptown Art District and the money being spent on it.
    My guess is a bit of time going door to door will get get a revolt going nicely and with any luck new leadership. Leadership interested in improving the whole area, not for a very few.

    Via Racine
    Via Uptown
    Via Revolution

  37. Dustin - you said "The criminal cases are clearly minor infractions. The small claims cases appear to be a businessman who missed bill payments." And I'm saying your nuts - this guy is not an upstanding individual with a record like his. That's the problem with this society - you and others are too accepting. Disorderly conduct alone should disqualify him. What's wrong with clean records, you will not find me out on CCAP, not even a speeding ticket - and I'm in the majority. This guy is just another thug - and I predict his business will not be without multiple police calls and probably won't last more than a year.

  38. "Owner Traci Mottl said Monday she is closing the store at 1410 Washington Ave. at 4 p.m. Saturday. It will reopen Sept. 1 as a much smaller space on the second floor inside School Daze Mall, 9500 Durand Ave. in Sturtevant."

    Linea Anthony Uptown sure is boominmg! Time to call in the Bulldozers

  39. Dustin I guess you and Pete both like the criminal element. What does that have to say about the two of you. What are your lasts names? Will we find you on CCAP also.

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  41. I had my birthday at 49 grove last Saturday night. The place was a bit to packed but had a lot of fun. Good looking crowd, great DJ and very strong drinks. A bit too strong for some of my friends, but their
    light weights. All the staff were really attentive and made a point of taking care of us. When we left the club we even got a thank you from what turned out to be the owner. It wasn’t your usual B.S. “Thank you
    come again,” either and for that I want to plug this place as a great place for a birthday.
    Carter Johnes

  42. We had a blast… great music, friendly service and awesome drinks. Looking forward to coming back soon at 49 Grove Restaurant in West Village NYC.

  43. Last night I went to a great fundraiser at 49 Grove for the Susan G. Komen’s Race For The Cure Breast Cancer Charity. The weather sucked and only 100 or so people showed but the place was really high end and nice. Much nicer then I expected a fundraiser to be. Little touches like pink roses all over the place, scented candles, mints with the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon on them, even the staff had pink ribbons on. The only thing that I didn’t like about the place was the location, West Village and we live uptown and that there was no food at the event.

  44. It's interesting how even the people that live in Racine don't back up a growing community. The more entertainment venues availible the more enticing it is for other investors to bring their business to the city. Look at Chicago for example. It's compairing apples to oranges, however business needs entertainment. They go hand in hand. This city has nothing but Dive bars and this location is very well put together. Although I'm sure most of you have not had the chance to see anything so you can only critisize your fellow neighbor!