The Gobbler Theater prepares for end-of-year opening
About a year and a half ago, Daniel Manesis was shopping with his wife at the Johnson Creek outlet mall and he caught a glimpse of the long-shuttered supper club, The Gobbler.
"I was there in the late 60s when I lived in Madison," says Manesis. "So we drove over there and took a look."
The Gobbler, a circular building that's more than 16,000 square feet, is located south of I-94 and west of Highway 26 in Johnson Creek. The former restaurant was known for its revolving bar, purple shag carpeting and turkey-based menu. It was open from 1969 to 1992.
It had been for sale for 20 years, but the previous owners maintained the property well – heating it in the winter and air conditioning it in the summer.
"It was in really nice shape," says Manesis, who made an offer on the building shortly after touring it.
The offer was accepted and Johnson Creek approved Manesis' plans to turn the former supper club into a medium-sized music venue.
"They had not approved previous plans," says Manesis. "Johnson Creek has been very, very helpful to us."
Manesis, who has owned a West Allis-based warehousing and trucking business, Daniel A. Manesis Transportation, Inc., for 40 years, says he had wanted to open a medium-sized music venue in or near Milwaukee for a while. He was inspired by his son, who was in a band, as well as friends in the music and ticket industry who told him that there were numerous small and large music venues, but none in the middle.
The Gobbler Theater will seat about 400 people and Manesis says the acts will be, primarily, country, Christian, '60s-'80s rock bands and some "good, clean family comedy."
"We have some acts in mind, but we can't book bands until we receive the occupancy permit and all of the safety features are in place," says Manesis.
The majority of the concerts will take place on Friday and Saturday nights, but the space will also be available for speaking engagements during the week. Manesis has also offered the space to Johnson Creek High School to use for free if need be.
Manesis says he hopes to open The Gobbler Theater by the end of the year. Currently, it's going through a major transformation. The revolving bar, however, will stay.
"We, very carefully, removed the dance floor and are replacing it with stadium seating," says Manesis.
Everything else, from the sprinkler to the sound system, is being upgraded and retrofitted.
The Gobbler Theater will offer beer, wine and soda and will, occasionally, partner with a restaurant for food options during performances.
Manesis is originally from Denver, Colo., but has lived in the area for 40 years. He currently resides in Muskego. Although a lifelong music fan and frequenter of live music, this is his first venture in the music industry. However, he has the support of many experienced friends and colleagues.
"I want to bring to this area a really nice place to go see bands. A nice, clean establishment where you can take your kids or a date or your spouse and really enjoy yourself," says Manesis. "I think we are going fit into this community really well and that guests who come to the Gobbler Theater to see the acts are going to have a bang-up time."
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