Haertel gets financing to add second banquet room at Best Place

First Bank Financial Centre is providing a $670,000 SBA-backed loan to Best Place to create a second banquet room in the historic building, Best Place owner Jim Haertel said.

Best Place is the former Pabst corporate offices and visitor center at the former Pabst brewery complex in downtown Milwaukee. Best Place hosts events in its 2,000-square-foot Blue Ribbon Hall, which has become a popular wedding venue.

“We’re so booked we’re turning brides away, almost every day,” Haertel said. “The word is out that this is a great place to have a wedding. We’re running out of Fridays and Saturdays to host weddings. We’ve started having weddings on Thursdays and Sundays.”

To meet the demand for event bookings, Best Place will renovate a 5,000-square-foot former office space outside of Capt. Frederick Pabst’s former office into a banquet hall, which will be called Great Hall. The former Capt. Pabst office will be restored for display purposes. Also, a 1,000-square-foot bar/lounge inspired by prohibition era speakeasys will be created in the former Pabst infirmary on the level below the Great Hall.

The $750,000 project is expected to begin in early March and be complete by early July, Haertel said. His son Josh plans to have his wedding on Aug. 23 in the Great Hall.

Work on the Great Hall space will include a new wooden floor, lead paint removal, new paint, new lights and new glass for the skylight. The space will have two bars including a vintage 1895 bar that Haertel acquired from Norway, Mich.

The Great Hall will also have a 400-square-foot, L-shaped deck outside of the southwest corner of the building.

In addition to weddings and other events the Great Hall will host performances by local artists, Haertel said.

“We plan on being a banquet venue on the weekends and a performance venue during the week,” he said.

In addition to the SBA backed loan from First Bank Financial Centre, Haertel expects to get state and federal tax credits worth $200,000 for the project.

Haertel said he continues to think about additional improvements in the building, including a future expansion of the speakeasy and he still hopes to someday create a “beer, bed and breakfast,” on the second and third floors of the building.

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