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Bavarian Brewery Building Faces Possible Demolition

The historic Bavarian Brewery Building in Covington may not be much longer for this world.

The River City News has learned that the property's owner, Columbia-Sussex, the Northern Kentucky-based operators of hotels, will be seeking permission to bring the property to the ground.

The matter could be considered by the city's urban design review board as early as October. A hearing at the Kenton County Planning Commission on Thursday of this week related to properties around the brewery site is not related to the company's plans to demolish the structure which is on the National register of Historic Places.

According to Covington Historic Preservation Officer Beth Johnson, being on the National Register does not necessarily protect a property from demolition unless federal funds are involved. In this case, the funds would be privately held.

The Bavarian Brewing Company can trace its roots in Covington back to the 1860s. It moved to the sprawling, castle-like location on Twelfth Street in 1877 and operated there in some capacity until 1966.

In the 1990s, the site became popular entertainment destination, Jillian's. It was purchased in 2008 by Columbia-Sussex owner Bill Yung as the Commonwealth of Kentucky was debating the possibility of expanding its gambling offerings. The brewery building was considered a likely location for a casino. The building was purchased for $4.2 million and as of 2010 had a $19 million mortgage attached to it.

Casino gambling never came to fruition in Kentucky.

A phone message left with Columbia-Sussex has not yet been returned.

The building has been vacant for years, since Jillian's closed, and is currently on the market by Republic Commercial Real Estate.

Since word of the possible demolition began to spread late Sunday evening, preservation groups have been communicating via email about how to react. The River City News has been in contact with multiple members of local groups and they are watching the situation closely.

On Thursday, the hearing before the Kenton County Planning Commission will be related only to the city's ability to use eminent domain on the some surrounding properties. The measure, already approved by the city commission, will prevent the city from using eminent domain on the properties should the brewery site be redeveloped, allowing the property owners to begin investing in the properties without fear of eventually losing them as a development opportunity emerges.

What the current owners of the brewery may have planned for the site after the planned demolition is not yet known. No plan has been submitted to City Hall.

If the urban design review board refuses to permit the demolition (required because in 1996 the city adopted a KRS Chapter 99 Development Plan about the site), the matter would go before the city commission. If it is further denied, it would go to Kenton County Circuit Court.

The River City News will continue to follow this story and bring the latest updates as they are learned.

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-Michael Monks, editor

Photo: Bavarian Brewery Building/RCN