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Photos: Inside the Abandoned Bavarian Brewery/Jillian's Building

There are remnants of its previous lives.

Leopard print carpet, a discarded Madonna album, vacated DJ booths, and signs promoting fun and games remind trespassers that a Jillian's nightclub once operated here.

Its proud stature and leftover relics from the 19th century conjure memories of a signature local industry: beer.

The Bavarian Brewery Building has seen better days. Its outside is bruised and uninviting - but that hasn't stopped what appears to have been many from inviting themselves inside in the ten years since Jillian's last welcomed guests. Most of the glass left behind - mirrors, windows - has been destroyed, and many walls have been covered in graffiti, some referencing a local murder case, and others a not-so-flattering greeting for President-elect Donald Trump.

But this iconic castle-like structure that is seen by thousands of motorists each day rushing past Covington along Interstate 75 may soon be upon its best days yet.

Kenton County now owns it and hopes to operate the county government from within its hallowed halls. Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann accompanied The River City News on a tour of the structure Thursday afternoon. The county is currently weighing its options after dropping $3.5 million to acquire it following a lengthy legal battle between the previous owner, hotel and casino developer Columbia-Sussex, and the City of Covington, which blocked the Crestview Hills-based corporation fro razing the landmark.

Originally cited as a potential location for a new casino in Covington, the building ultimately deteriorated under Columbia Sussex's decade-long ownership. The company never got its wish of expanded gaming in Kentucky and when it sought to tear down the Bavarian, claiming that the site was more marketable without it, preservationists and then the city government stopped it. 

On the other side of downtown, Kenton County has been grappling with what to do with its own deteriorating building, the nearly 50-year old Kenton County Administration Building, a small skyscraper that looms over the Roebling Suspension Bridge. Since the Kenton County Detention Center moved to the south end of the city, several floors of the government building have gone unused. A plan to relocate Northern Kentucky University's Chase College of Law there, after a proposed extensive and expensive renovation, was ultimately scrapped by the school

But the current county government site remains attractive for development, mainly because of its geography - right in the north end of a resurgent downtown Covington where new residential opportunities seemingly be built quickly enough. 

In the meantime, Kenton County found a new home for its government at the Bavarian site, and the sprawling building may be able to accommodate more than them. There will be a study conducted that will offer analysis of what would be the best use, including the potential of tearing the whole thing down, anyway. That's unlikely, but it will be studied along with a partial demolition and no demolition at all. 

Because Kenton County has two county seats, Covington and Independence, the government also maintains a presence at the historic courthouse in Independence. GRW Engineering has been tapped to lead a process of studying the best use for that site, too. 

“Our search criteria for a County Administration Building in Covington required that the new location have much improved accessibility and free surface parking. That’s been accomplished with the Bavarian Brewery site,” said Knochelmann. “As we continue the pre-design process, we want to leave no stone unturned in evaluating every possible idea for the utilization of this property.”

“We’ve spoken with a number of governmental entities about co-locating. We’ve also been approached by a wide variety of individuals and organizations about possible partnerships. Early in the pre-design process, we want to get all possibilities on the table.”
Citizens are encouraged to visit the “New Kenton County Administration Building Project” section on the Kenton County website to learn more about the project and submit ideas or questions.
The open house will be at Covington Latin School, 21 East 11th Street, Covington, KY 41011, on December 14th from 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 p.m. Attendees will be able to learn more about the project, talk to staff working on it, and submit ideas and questions.
Story & photos by Michael Monks, editor & publisher


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