A new owner has changed up the look and name of freshmen-favorite bar Bullwinkles, but his plans stretch beyond a fresh coat of paint.
Campus-area club Bullwinkles reopened Friday as The Warehouse after seven weeks of downtime, boasting new lights, sound, ownership and management, according to a Facebook event page. New owner Gregory Knoob said he is making improvements, but the building’s days are numbered. He is also in the process of acquiring the nearby Big Bar & Grill, and more changes are yet to come for both establishments.
Knoob said most of the changes are things students won’t notice: fixing broken toilets and keeping the space clean.
“I just want it to be a nice, clean, safe place that people can have a good time and that’s it,” Knoob said.
Upon reopening, the most notable change was the lack of the iconic red bull’s head hanging from the ceiling. Knoob’s wife and The Warehouse manager, Liz, said it was taken by a group of fraternity boys within 10 minutes of setting the tattered styrofoam sculpture on the curb. Knoob said this and other design changes were meant to give the club a more professional look.
“This place looked like it was meant for people in junior high. I mean it really did,” Knoob said.
Despite the changes, Knoob said the Bullwinkles sign on the front of the establishment will stay put for the foreseeable future. Strict rules for High Street businesses mean changing the name could take months, he said. Inside, “The Warehouse” is printed in large letters over the bar.
Knoob said changing the name to The Warehouse was apt due to the building’s boxy, industrial look, but the title holds more significance to him. The Warehouse was the name of the Chicago club where house music first got its start, and as a DJ who began managing clubs in Illinois more than three decades ago, Knoob said he wanted to honor his history.
Knoob said he has DJ’ed most nights at The Warehouse since he started managing it in May. Many of his changes are focused on improving the entertainment aspect of the club.
“I don’t want to have six guys sitting at the bar drinking a beer. I want everybody to dance and have a good time,” he said. “I honestly care less about the alcohol part of this business. I wish it wasn’t necessary. I honestly just want a place where people go out, dance, have a good time. That’s it.”
Bullwinkles moved to Big Bar during the hiatus — according to a Jan. 10 Facebook post — taking its staff, pricing and rules to the smaller club a block south. Knoob said this was possible because he currently manages Big Bar as well.
“I had employees here [at Bullwinkles] that I had hired, and I didn’t want to fire people, lay people off, while we were closed, so I had to do another acquisition just so people had jobs,” he said.
Knoob said he was also motivated to purchase Big Bar because he does not see The Warehouse lasting long. He said he is only making minor changes because Campus Partners, the university’s real estate arm, has plans to acquire the property within three to five years.
“I’m kind of worried about what the entertainment options are going to be once they tear all these things down,” he said. “It’s going to be tough. It’s part of student life; entertainment is part of student life.”
Knoob said he plans to renovate Big Bar, starting with the rooftop during spring break. He said he is waiting until the summer for any major renovations that will require the bar to close.
Knoob is also taking over The Little Donut Shop, situated a floor below Big Bar. He said plans are still up in the air, but his current idea is to turn it into a classy pub with craft beer and cocktails for students searching for a more relaxed drinking experience. There is no specific timeline for these changes.
Knoob began the lengthy process of transferring ownership of Bullwinkles from 1774, a corporation managed by Ted Lawson, in April 2019, according to previous Lantern reporting. Knoob took over operation in May, but the deal quickly went south, leading to a lawsuit filed by Knoob and a claim of theft. Lawson did not respond to request for comment by the time of publication.
Knoob said he decided to apply for his own liquor license after the relationship soured instead of waiting for the transfer process, which can take months. He said the establishment was closed for seven weeks as he waited for this new license, which was approved Thursday.
In addition, Knoob said he had to work out a new lease with the landlord.
“It was a nightmare scenario with the previous guy. It just got confusing. And it was just better just to start over,” he said.
Currently, the Ohio Division of Liquor Control lists liquor licenses for both Knoob and Melissa Kampman, owner of 1774, at the address of the bar.
The Warehouse is located at 1770 N. High St. and is open Thursday through Saturday from 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.