Marquette's martinis - Couple to open bar in renovated hotel

Monday, October 4, 2004

Fifteen years ago, while living together in Colorado, Brad Poole and Michael Risch kicked around the concept of an upscale drinking establishment in their hometown of Cape Girardeau. But like so many dreams, it fell by the wayside as the two went their separate ways.

Now a revitalized Cape Girardeau landmark has breathed new life into the idea. And when Poole and Risch open LoDo's Martini Bar in the southeast corner shop of the Marquette Towers, they not only hope to contribute to downtown's future, they will also be reviving part of Cape Girardeau's past.

The project got legs in April this year, when the partners began looking for a location. With the recent establishment of key downtown projects -- the new federal courthouse, the River Campus and the Marquette Towers -- and the developments that were sprouting up around them, the two decided that the area was ready for such an endeavor.

The pair also felt that they were now ready, both having moved back to Cape Girardeau. Risch had been part owner of Mollie's Cafe for the past two years, and Poole had accrued more than a decade's experience in the restaurant business in Denver before returning home.

Keeping the project downtown was important to Poole and Risch, not only because of the excitement surrounding the developing historic district, but because they both live and work there. But their search for a business site met with lukewarm response from building owners on Main Street. Frustrated, they began to take notice of the rapid progress in the rehabilitation of the Marquette and looking into the building's past. Things just clicked.

"Growing up in Cape, we'd both met a lot of people who'd been to the Marquette and worked there," Poole said. "We'd heard a lot of stories from our families about what a hopping place it used to be."

In their independent online research of the building's history, the two pulled up pictures illustrating those stories, scenes of vintage Cadillacs lined up in front of the brightly lit building, dropping off women dressed in period garb and furs.

One of the pictures the pair turned up in their search was that of the legendary star bar, which had been built during a hotel remodeling in the 1950s. Poole and Risch decided it would be built anew.

"It just wouldn't be right for the Marquette not to have a martini bar," Risch said. "It just makes sense."

After Poole and Risch signed the lease on Sept. 24, they immediately set to work painting the room and building a new star bar. They said that the windows will be left open so passers-by can view their progress as their dream takes shape. They plan to be open by the last weekend of October.

335-6611, extension 137

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