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Arcada Theatre undergoing significant renovations during shutdown

ST. CHARLES – When the Arcada Theatre reopens its doors, patrons may not recognize the building.

That’s because the historic theater and its sister operation, Club Arcada, are undergoing a major renovation project that includes new eateries as well as hotel suites and additional bathrooms. The building has been closed since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My job is to create an experience that will make people want to come to downtown St. Charles,” said Ron Onesti, president and founder of Onesti Entertainment, which leases space in the building at 105 E. Main St. in downtown St. Charles for the Arcada Theatre and Club Arcada. “The main mission is two-fold – to create a better experience for our guests and also for the entertainers.”

He expects the project will be done by September. He doesn’t know yet when the Arcada Theatre and Club Arcada will reopen their doors.

The area last month moved into Phase 4 of Gov. JB Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan, which allows cinemas and theaters to reopen with capacity limits and approved safety guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Gatherings of no more than 50 people are allowed, with the limit subject to change based on the latest data and guidance.

The Arcada Theatre has about 900 seats. Club Arcada seats about 150 people.

“At this point, I want it to be safe for people,” Onesti said. “I’m in no rush. Some businesses have to be.”

In May 2005, Onesti Entertainment Corp. assumed ownership of theater operations. The historic building first opened its doors in 1926 and attracted performers such as George Burns and Gracie Allen.

The project began to take shape last year after Frontier Development purchased the Arcada building. Frontier Development also owns the building that houses Flagship on the Fox sports bar and Pollyanna Brewing Company and is purchasing the former BMO Harris Bank building in downtown St. Charles.

“They stepped up and haven’t looked back since,” said Onesti in talking about how Frontier Development owners Curt and Conrad Hurst have embraced the project.

The Club Arcada Speakeasy has newly done floors and enlarged kitchen and server’s facilities.

“It was a gem already,” Onesti noted. “This really didn’t need a whole lot. With the enlarged kitchen, we will have more menu options.”

Nine hotel suites are being built as part of the project, made possible after Frontier Development’s acquisition of the building formerly known as George’s Sports Center located just east of the Arcada building.

“They’re all themed – Elvis, The Beatles, Zeppelin, Nashville, Motown, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s and Sinatra,” Onesti said.

What previously was The House Pub’s second-floor event space is being turned into a luxurious VIP experience.

“It’s going to be kind of like a country club experience,” Onesti said. “We’ll have VIP meet and greets.”

A space that formerly housed Gordy’s Grill and Mart and Starbucks is being transformed into the Rock ‘N Za restaurant. The restaurant will sell wood-fired pizza, salads, grilled and Chicago-style hot dogs, gourmet popcorn and pretzels and flavor-burst soft serve ice cream.

The acquisition of the former George’s Sports Center building will allow for the creation of another restaurant, Rock ‘N Ravioli, which will feature some of Onesti’s homemade recipes, including chicken vesuvio ravioli and braised beef ravioli. Just outside of Rock ‘N Ravioli will be an outdoor Venetian-style plaza.

“There will be Italian awnings and Italian lights,” Onesti said. “We will probably be able to fit 50 people out here. We’re also looking to do an outdoor rooftop cafe as well.”

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