August 13, 2009

Bester forcefully denies Uptown restaurant will be a hip hop club

Gerald Bester's meandering path through city government to open his new restaurant in Uptown continued Wednesday with an appearance before the Plan Commission.

Bester needs a conditional-use permit to open his restaurant, "Gerald's," at 1501 Washington Ave. He made a brief appearance before the commission Wednesday and discussed his plans.

Bester, who has already secured a liquor license, intends to open an upscale restaurant with comedy acts on the weekend (Bester used to run a comedy club in Milwaukee and has ties to national comedians). The restaurant will have smokehouse theme that serves specialty meats, turkey, ribs, chicken and fish, along with sandwiches, appetizers and tacos.

He also said he'll work with local corporations to build relationships and hopefully attract people for lunches and dinners.

Bester forcefully denied the restaurant would turn into a hip hop club.

"I'll be a good neighbor in the this city and in the Uptown community," he said. "I'm well-versed about the previous problems in the area. I've done everything I know how to to get the message out that this won’t be that type of an establishment."

"I'm committed to making this part of the solution, not a problem for the city of Racine," he added.

During a public hearing on the conditional-use permit, Richard Kemper said the Uptown business associations supported Bester as long as he installed a full kitchen in the building. Kemper added he had concerns about Gerald's staying open late on the weekends.

"What we don’t need in our neighborhood is a lot of influx late at night," he said.

Lauren Konopka, of the High Riders Motorcycle Club, said the club supported Bester's application for a conditional-use permit.

"This man deserves his chance," she said.

Alderman Michael Shields agreed. He said Bester has made it clear he intends to open a restaurant and the city should give him the opportunity to enact those plans. He argued past incidents in the building are irrelevant to Bester, who had nothing to do with what happened five years ago.

That said, Shields said he also intended to hold Bester accountable to his plans.

"If Mr. Bester fails, believe me, I’ll be one of the first to say he needs to go," Shields said.

Following the public hearing, Plan Commission member Brent Oglesby said he supported Bester's plans. He said he was particularly interested in a restaurant staying open late because most sit-down places in Racine close relatively early.

Commission member Eric Marcus reminded the commission that it was simply voting on whether the restaurant was a good use of the land, not whether the restaurant itself was a good idea. It's a key distinction that factors out reviewing Bester's business plan.

"We’re not (determining) if this is a good restaurant," Marcus said. "(We're determining) if it is a good use of the land."

Bester was also asked about his plans for an outdoor patio on the second story of the building. He said it likely would be used as a smoking area once the state goes smoke free next year. It could also allow him to sell Canadian cigars.

The commission voted to defer action on the conditional-use permit until the Access Corridor Development Review Committee reviews the proposal at its meeting on Aug. 22.


  1. Shields, you won't say a darn thing if he fails. We ALL know that. Who you kidding?

  2. What's wrong with a hip-hop club?

    To each his own ... and this genre certainly has added to our culture as much as rock 'n' roll, heavy metal and dirty dancing.

    Or Flamingo, for that matter.

  3. That was supposed to come out of spell-check as Flamenco, sorry.

  4. A hip-hop club will bring out all the gangsters in Racine - just like the Bank did - further more this new owner is a criminal according to CCAP - can you imagine his friends?

  5. I don't know Mr. Bester or his past record. Unless he has a prior record of dealing drugs, being a gang member or of violence, I don't think it should be taken into consideration. The thing to do is hold him to his word and shut him down if he breaks it. Also, unlike the way the bar was handled at 6th & Park, Mr. Bester should not be allowed to open his doors until the full kitchen is completely in place, operational and signed off by the city inspectors.

  6. 1:17 - Well let's see, writing bad checks, obstructing an officer, disorderly conduct, domestic abuse, delinquint on child support, restraning order - and more. Is that enough for you?

  7. As much as I might have my questions about this. I feel that Mr. Bester should not have to go in front of what Three Committees can we micro manage this project to death? Or is this the new way the City can kill a project without killing a project?

  8. 2:08 - It's obvious that you know Mr. Bester quite well, to have such intimate knowledge of his "criminal" past. But I don't see any of the things I've mentioned here, "dealing drugs, being a gang member or of violence." I don't know what the domestic abuse is all about, and you don't elaborate, so I don't see where it qualifies. "Obstruction" and "disorderly conduct" can be construed in may ways by the police and don't necessarily default to violent. I'm sure you have a perfect past, or you wouldn't be throwing stones. However, I don't see anything here that should delegate Mr. Bester to being condemned to flipping burgers for $6.50 an hour for the rest of his life. Based on your description, is he the kind of person I would like to know or have dealings with? I think not. If what you say is true, I probably would not frequent his establishment either. But I don't see anything here that deserves banishment either. I think he should have a chance to better himself and move ahead with this project as I outlined before. But if he breaks even one promise that he makes to the city and citizenry, then he should be immediately shut down. -Racine Resident

  9. 10:55 - I can't believe you don't know what domestic violence is. It is one of the lowest forms of man who beat up on women - sounds like you don't consider this violence. And by the way you won't find me on CCAP - not even a speeding violation, so i guess that does make my past perfect.

  10. Racine Resident8/17/2009 8:49 AM

    Anon 7:44, the term "domestic violence" was never used. The term "domestic abuse" was used. They can be two totally differnt things. Domestic abuse can be abusive language, domination, pshycological, financial, many things that are not "violence." As I said, it couldn't stand because it was not elaborated upon.

    And yes, I do consider domestic violence to be one of the lowest, most cowardly things a man can do. Again, I don't want to know the guy and I wouldn't frequent his establishment, and maybe he should be barred from opening the business, but that decision will lay with the city council. If he has a felony conviction against him I do think he should be denied the liquor license, but not the right to open a restaurant.

    If every man who ever made mistakes was denied the chance to turn his life around and better himself, there would be many prominent people and businesses in our country that would not exist today. And just because you don't appear on CCAP doesn't mean you're squeaky clean. For the most part, we've all done things in our lives that we regret, but just didn't get caught. Let me ask you this: can you walk on water?

  11. 8:49 - I did not want to mention it, but yes I can walk on water, but I don't like to brag about it. As far as turning your life around - it does not have to include a liquor license.
    That is what I object to. The city council should never issue one to someone that has his past record.

  12. Racine Resident8/17/2009 6:06 PM

    Anon 7:44/9:19, it's good to see that you at least have a sense of humor. But I cannot condone denying anyone a liquor license short of being a convicted felon. Felon's lose their right to vote because a felony is a pretty serious offence. So compared to losing the right to vote, denying a liquor license is not excessive. But if he is NOT a convicted felon, legally he retains all of his civil rights and it is not prudent to just outright discriminate against someone because you don't like his past record. Would I like to see him get a liquor license based on what you have told me (providing it is all factual)? No, I wouldn't. But, it is also not my place to deny him one just because I have formed a negative opinion of him or he has a somewhat sordid past. If we are to respect the law, we must honor the intent of law and I don't see anywhere that he has been convicted of anything that would negate him receiving the license. There are a lot of things that go on in this town that I feel are wasteful, immoral, repugnant and downright disgraceful. But, they are legal. And until the laws are amended to make them illegal, I may complain about them, but I won't take action against them or deny someone their civil rights.

  13. 6:06 I am tired of people making excuses for others. He has broken the law on a number of occasions - this license should be saved for someone without his criminal record. I assure you if this thing goes through, there will be mutiple police calls and I will predict he'll be in business for less than a year.

  14. Racine Resident8/17/2009 10:38 PM

    I haven't made any excuses for him. I just think the law is the law (until it's changed) and you, nor anyone else, has the right to just impose your sanctions on someone and deny them their civil rights because YOU THINK their past doesn't measure up to YOUR standards. If, in fact, it turns out that his "domestic abuse" as YOU put it is truly domestic violence, they yes I agree with denying the license. Otherwise, who are you to judge?

  15. 10:38 - this is not about civil rights, it is about what the board thinks is best for the community. And again and for the last time - this guy is not the best person for the community.

  16. Anon 8:02AM:

    What part of "if the man has not been convicted of a felony you can't deny him his rights" don't you understand? I looked him up on Racine Circuit Court Access and you are right, he is a scum ball. But I don't think the city council can deny him a Class B liqour license based on that criteria. I think they have to base it on location, intent, availability, impact on the neighborhood, and whether or not the man is a convicted felon. Not on whether they like him or not.

    It is sad, I agree. But I have to agree with Racine Resident on this one. I too will not patronize his establishment. But I can't see how the City Council can discriminate against him legally.

  17. The council can use any criteria they like - if the guy is a thug, which he is, they can deny him. Who is going to stop them - you are naive.