CHAMPAIGN — A new event and wedding space hopes to open in downtown Champaign by April 1.
Called The Venue CU, it would be able to host weddings with up to 300 guests.
It’ll be going into the spaces formerly occupied by the 51 Main nightclub and Memphis on Main bar.
“We’re looking to start renovations Dec. 1, and they’re saying it could be done by April 1,” said Dan Church, who will be running The Venue with his father-in-law, Greg Bugbee, and brother-in-law, Casey Gold.
“It’s pretty ambitious, but we’ve been going about this for a while,” Church said.
For the past 33 years, Bugbee has been the owner of Bugbee’s DJ Plus, which Church joined 10 years ago.
“We’re doing 150 weddings a year, and we’ve seen a lot of bad and a lot of good,” Church said. “We want to bring a lot of the good into one place.”
The renovated space will have a modern, industrial look, Church said, similar to venues he’s seen in Indianapolis, Peoria and Chicago.
“We have a DJ market up in Grand Rapids,” Church said. “They have about five or six of this type of event space, and they’re always booked out.”
They’re taking out the middle wall and cooler area, Church said, and it will have bridal and groom suites for the wedding party to get ready in.
The ceremony can be held in what’s called the Varsity Ballroom, which is named after the Varsity Theater that opened there in 1906.
Cocktail hour would be held in the Main Street Lounge; then guests would return to the Varsity Ballroom for the reception.
“There’s really nothing like this” in the area, Church said.
He hopes The Venue CU — which plans to team up with local businesses to provide food, tuxedoes, hotel rooms and flowers — will be a one-stop shop for people getting married.
“We’re just trying to do it right,” Church said.
And of course, they’ll encourage customers to use Bugbee’s DJ services.
“We’re allowing other DJs and bands to come in, but trying to steer people to ours,” Church said.
The Venue CU will also be looking to host other events that can hold more people with auditorium-style seating.
Like many of the downtown buildings owned by retired Christie Clinic doctor William Youngerman, this renovation will try to restore the historic nature of the building.
“They’re historic buildings that go back into the late 1800s,” said Alan Nudo, a broker with Berkshire Hathaway. “They’re going to go back to the historical vision of what they were with the facades.”
Nudo is trying to get that part of downtown designated as the Downtown Champaign Historic District.
The state has approved it and passed it onto the National Park Service, Nudo said. The city of Champaign will also have to approve the historic district designation.
“It’s going to have a destination feeling to it,” Nudo said, comparing it to the historic Third Ward in Milwaukee. “It’s not just individual businesses coming and going.”
The proposed historic district would stretch from Black Dog to Guido’s to Walnut Street Tea Co.
Nudo said he’s looking forward to The Venue CU opening.
“It’s going to work out just super,” he said.
It’s not leasing the former Derailed bar space, Nudo said, but “we’re in talks right now. There’s active interest.”