CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign City Council approved about $175,000 of incentives last week for the wedding venue being built in downtown Champaign.
The Venue CU plans to use about $155,000 in Redevelopment Incentive Program grants and $20,000 in Storefront Improvement grants to restore the buildings at 51-55 Main Street to their early 1900s look.
The redevelopment grant will help “tremendously, especially in terms of being able to capitalize on some of the historical elements that are a little costly to do, but which add so much to the project,” said Dan Church, who will be running The Venue CU with his father-in-law, Greg Bugbee, and brother-in-law, Casey Gold.
“The facade is going to be a rendering of the 1906 version of the building really early on in its history,” he said. “It will have a neat alcove entryway in to the main ballroom that’s about 14 to 15 feet in the air.”
The redevelopment grant will be paid to The Venue CU through reimbursements based on new property tax revenue generated by the increased assessed value of the property.
The building at 51-53 Main Street opened in 1906 as the Stimmel & Morris Amusement Company theater, according to the city.
It was later the Varsity Theater, the Rex Theater and the Illini Theater, which showed adult films there from 1966 to 1987.
Harvest Church then moved in, followed by the High Dive and then the nightclub 51 Main.
The upper floors have been vacant for more than 40 years, according to the city, and The Venue CU plans to turn them into six apartments.
The building at 55 Main St. was constructed in 1890 as a tailoring and clothing store before becoming Vriner’s Confectionery in 1898, according to the city.
Vriner’s closed in 1997, after which it became a bar under various names, including No Name Saloon, Sidebar and Memphis on Main.
He said they’re hoping to open around Aug. 1 and have about 30 weddings pre-booked, but “with the uncertainty in getting to Phase 5 in the governor’s plan, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to host weddings for over 50 people for the foreseeable future.”
Church said they’ve been working with couples who’ve pre-booked to change dates.
“We rescheduled some of our late summer and early fall dates. We’re hoping to hold onto our October, November, December dates,” Church said.
Alan Nudo, a broker Dr. William Youngerman, who owns the LLCs that own the buildings, said construction is moving along quickly.
“The vanilla box, so to speak, is almost completed,” he said. “The wood flooring is in. The walls have been sealed. The bathrooms are about to be completed.”
The new space will have “beautiful walnut wood flooring,” Nudo said, and “the brick walls are stunning in their look.”
Once weddings are allowed to resume, Nudo expects the Venue CU to get busy quickly.
“They’ve got a good feel for brides and weddings because they’ve been doing a part of that business for many, many years,” Nudo said.
For the past 33 years, Bugbee has been the owner of Bugbee’s DJ Plus, which Church joined about 10 years ago.