Saturday, May 1, 2004

One year, 500,000 liters of beer

Hofbrauhaus finds success in Newport

By Travis Gettys
Enquirer contributor

Among the first-anniversary celebrants Friday are (clockwise from lower left) Tina Newberry, Gerri Davis, Barbara Dozier, Stephanie Splete and Sue Cline. Splete is director of sales at Hofbrauhaus. The other women work for the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau. The German beer hall has served 400,000 guests since it opened.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/PATRICK REDDY
NEWPORT - One year after tapping its first keg of beer, Hofbrauhaus has shown that - as the song says - if you roll out the barrel, people will have barrels of fun.

"I was down here last Saturday, and it was packed," said Joe Plattner of Villa Hills. "We need more places like this on both sides of the river."

Brewmaster Markus Lohner poured the 500,000th liter of Newport-brewed Hofbrauhaus beer Friday to celebrate the authentic German beer hall's first anniversary.

"We've had about 400,000 guests, which means they're all drinking more than one liter," said developer Eric Haas of Fort Thomas.

Plattner, who visits two or three times a week, said he's glad Hofbrauhaus decided to locate in Newport, rather than Cincinnati, which also vied for the beer hall.

"This is the perfect place for this," he said, gesturing toward the view of Cincinnati's skyline.

Plattner brought a friend, Paul Weinacht of San Francisco, to see the first authentic Hofbrauhaus in the United States.

"The first thing in my mind when I think of Kentucky is probably not a German beer house," Weinacht said. "(But) coming inside and seeing all the tables, it looks pretty authentic."

The half-million-liter mark is about 100,000 more than was expected, Lohner said, adding that Hofbrauhaus Newport is one of the top three pub brewers in the nation.

"I don't think there's anywhere in the States selling so much beer with so few seats," said Lohner, a transplanted German who lives in Fort Thomas.

First-year success for the 750-seat beer hall has spurred expanded brewing facilities, said developer Nick Ellison of Fort Thomas, and additional service facilities are under construction in the outdoor beer garden.

"We've expanded our brewing capacity so we don't run out of beer this summer," he said.

Hofbrauhaus has helped draw visitors to other attractions, such as Newport On The Levee and Newport Aquarium, said City Manager Phil Ciafardini.

"You get people from the region who may not otherwise come to Newport," Ciafardini said.

"People will go to Hofbrauhaus and then go other places - if not that time, then come back the next time," he said.

Greg Wessels of Anderson Township said he rarely came to Newport before Hofbrauhaus opened, but now he visits three or four times a week for a beer and to see a movie at Newport on the Levee.

"You can do a lot down here," he said. "It's really diverse. Sometimes after a ball game, I'll come over here for a liter of beer."

Kentucky lawmakers granted all three destinations on Newport's riverfront a tourism tax credit, allowing developers to recoup 25 percent of their building costs through sales tax rebates.

Those anchors have encouraged development in other areas of the city, Ciafardini said, citing Washington Platform at 921 Monmouth St. and UpStarCrow, a jazz and blues dinner club that will open later this year across Third Street from Newport on the Levee.

"I think that says a lot about what's going on," Ciafardini said.

A hotel and office project, tied to the Newport on the Levee tax credit, is also planned for an empty lot across Third Street from Hofbrauhaus, Ciafardini said.

"That's something we'd like to see get started by the end of the year," he said.

Economic impact has been felt as far away as Elsmere, where German Cuisine Butcher Shop provides all the meats and sausages for Hofbrauhaus Newport.

"Business has picked up, recognition has picked up and, of course, finances have picked up," said Karen Koeppe, co-owner of the shop.

"When people eat at Hofbrauhaus and they realize we are the providers of the food, they come to our store so they can serve the same thing at their family gatherings," she said.

The next Hofbrauhaus will open next spring in Pittsburgh, Ellison said, and he and Haas will travel this week to develop plans for one in another city, which Ellison declined to identify.

"This is an excellent concept, and we're obviously happy with the results," Ellison said.

Wessels said Hofbrauhaus Newport compares favorably to the original in Munich, with one difference.

"I think it's kind of calm compared to the one over there," he said. "The Germans can really drink and party."

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