A couple seeking to turn a local landmark building into a tavern got city approval Monday over the concerns of a group that is planning a major development on neighboring land.
The Eau Claire Plan Commission approved the permit Monday night in a unanimous voice vote, allowing James and Christie Rolbiecki to reuse the former Kaiser Lumber Co. office, 1004 Menomonie St., as a tavern.
Explaining the Rolbieckis’ vision for the business, attorney Brian Nodolf characterized it as a pub and not a college bar.
“It’s designed to be a place where I would be comfortable taking my children as well,” he said to the commission.
Though it will have a small kitchen, the tavern will serve food such as soups, sandwiches, chicken wings and burgers, Nodolf said.
Prospective clientele for the pub are people visiting the nearby Hobbs Ice Center for skating or hockey games, patrons who would go to other Water Street restaurants and visitors to the future Sonnentag Event and Recreation Center.
The group planning that large event center had sent a letter to the city stating how granting a permit to the Rolbieckis would be premature.
A partnership of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, Mayo Clinic Health System and Eau Claire YMCA is developing the Sonnentag project, which is planned for a large swath of land next to the Rolbieckis’ property.
“I don’t think we have a lot of the answers to the issues the Plan Commission is considering this evening,” Mike Rindo, assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations, said during Monday night’s meeting.
With the Sonnentag complex including a 4,100-seat venue as well as a recreation center with multiple user groups, the development is expected to have a significant impact on Menomonie Street’s traffic, he noted. That could result in the city modifying some intersections or re-aligning roads in the area.
But with that project still years away from happening, commission member Terry Pederson said the future event center can adapt to the tavern and other buildings already in the area.
“It seems their plans are here. The Sonnentag plans aren’t here,” Pederson said. “Maybe the Sonnentag property should take into consideration what’s already here.”
Rindo replied that it was “a fair point.”
Eric Larsen, another commission member, said he appreciated the heads-up from the university that the area could see more traffic in the future. But he added that the Rolbieckis’ plans will preserve the landmark building, which is something he wants to see.
The Historic Randall Park Neighborhood Association wrote a letter in support of the Rolbieckis reusing the local landmark.
“That’s really why the neighborhood supports this. It is the last lumber building existing,” Helene Smiar, a neighborhood association member, said at Monday night’s meeting.
She did add that the association would like to see as much of the landscaping preserved around the building as possible, though plans show most of that becoming parking.
James Rolbiecki previously got a permit to create the tavern in August 2016, but the project didn’t start within a year and that permit expired.
The difference this time, Nodolf said, is that Christie Rolbiecki plans to take the lead role in running the tavern. She has seven years of experience of working in different positions at local restaurants and taverns, Nodolf said.
Also during Monday night’s Plan Commission meeting:
• Minnesota-based Sages Prosper Management got a permit necessary to proceed with plans to convert the former downtown Hope Gospel Mission men’s shelter at 8 S. Farwell St. into upscale furnished apartments.
• Plans for a new 107-room Marriott Residence Inn slated for eight acres of vacant land on the city’s northeast side near the North Crossing were approved.