Elburn owner renovates downtown Batavia bar

By on July 21, 2012

Photo: Wilson Street Tavern, 105 E. Wilson Street in Batavia, is a clean, cozy tavern with a great wine list and pictures on the wall by local artists. Photo by Lynn Meredith

by Lynn Meredith
BATAVIA—Elburn resident Mark Hogan knows the right time and the right place when he sees it: he’s been doing it in the restaurant business for years.

After a break of 20 years, Hogan says it’s time to get back into owning a bar. Eight weeks ago, he opened The Wilson Street Tavern in downtown Batavia. The process involved completely renovating the space and turning it into one that will attract neighborhood patrons of all ages.

“I always loved being in the business. I wanted to be my own boss again,” Hogan said. “Before wasn’t the right time, but now it’s time. I want a little neighborhood bar, so that when it’s slow, you don’t worry. I opened the bar not to be a millionaire, but to have a job and make a little money.”

Hogan purchased the bar, formerly the Stop Lite Inn for many years, and immediately began renovating with himself as general contractor. He hired out contractors to replace the floors, walls, put in all-new dry wall and electrical. The bathrooms were completely renovated.

He also had the art deco bar, which had been built in the 1940s and brought out from Chicago refinished.

During the process, Hogan said the city of Batavia was helpful and patient.

“The city was unbelievable to work with. I can’t say enough about them. They took time to answer all my silly questions and walked me through the process of getting economic development money,” Hogan said.

The result is a clean, cozy tavern with a great wine list and pictures on the wall by local artists.

“We want to rotate the art on the walls from local artists. Next, we’re going to have an artist’s work from Water Street Gallery,” Hogan said.

In the next six-to-eight weeks, Hogan plans to put in a 12-draft beer system that would serve craft and local beers.

“That’s a whole new crowd. It’s a huge segment now. It’s a market where those who are interested will search it out,” he said.

He also plans to have a limited menu of paninis, salads and flatbread pizza. For now, patrons can order from nearby restaurants like El Taco Grande, who will deliver to the bar.

With a state-of-the-art juke box that plays virtually any song you can name, the tavern will occasionally have live music.

“We’re experimenting with it. It’s hard to do in a small place,” he said.

In planning this venture, Hogan went out to coffee shops and talked to people to get a feel for the community. He discovered that Batavia residents support their local businesses.

“I found out that the people of Batavia are very loyal to their town. They want the town to do well. We will survive on local business,” Hogan said. “Right now we’re getting 21-year olds and 81-year olds. It’s a good mix of people. It’s a neighborhood feel. Everybody should feel comfortable.”