The property now called Lake Geneva Courtyard, featuring Bistro 220, wasn’t always this beautiful structure enhancing the City and neighboring Historic District.The 60 year old property known as 220 Cook Street, located on the west side of downtown Lake Geneva, was once a graffiti covered dilapidated four family apartment building in dire need of some TLC.Having been on the market for many years, any potential buyers had experienced one problem after another.
Zoned as residential, this property didn't fall into any correct zoning category.Theoretically, to be zoned as residential, the apartment building must have at least 1 parking space per unit and there were none. This made the property extremely difficult to sell or rent.The property is situated in the middle of the block on Cook Street surrounded by retail and restaurant businesses and it only made sense for this property to be rezoned for retail and/or restaurant operations.
In the summer of 2007, an offer was made to purchase the property with the condition that the building would be rezoned in order to operate retail and restaurant with indoor/outdoor entertainment.
After many setbacks and countless meetings with the City's Planning Division and the City Council, this property was finally rezoned as Planned Development.This enabled us to proceed with the closing on the purchase of this property in November 2007.
Renovations on the building began immediately starting with the exterior.A new roof, windows, porch and balcony were incorporated into the design as well as columns, siding and rails giving this structure a Louisiana style appeal. Then the renovations of the lower level interiors commenced.Beneath the stained carpeting were worn hard wood floors and when sanded and stained became alive and lustrous again. Once completed with new windows, drywall, ceilings, and woodwork this now highly desirable retail location was immediately rented.The lower south space now features an antique furniture and collectables shop called The Red Pony.The lower north space occupies an exclusive ladies boutique called The Purple Door.
As spring warmed the ground, the landscaping was underway.All original plantings were removed to make way for the unbelievable transformation that soon would be the talk of the town.From the stained and stamped concrete walkways to the Gothic Dolphin waterfall that greets you as you enter the grounds; our vision was coming to life.Hugging the new curved stone walls are dozens of rose bushes and various perennials.Little did we know that we would receive the Mayor's Beautification Award for Property Enhancement from the Lake Geneva Beautification Committee for what had been accomplished.
During the process of refurbishing the building, was the task of obtaining the Conditional Use approval for our restaurant.After a lengthy struggle with many setbacks the city council denied our request after a initial approval by the planning committee. After more talks with our Alderman our request was revisited and finally approved. Shortly afterward, the neighbor that has been the source of our troubles filed a petition with the City pleading for them to reverse their decision on granting us our Conditional Use permit. After that failed, he filed a petition with the Board of Review to overturn the granting of our Conditional Use permit, which was also unsuccessful.Work continues on the Bistro in hopes of an early 2009 Grand Opening. Through all of this we have had to file a temporary restraining order against our neighbor a few doors down because of the two disorderly conducts that he was cited for, one of which a fine was levied against him by the Walworth Courts for his unruley behavior and vulgarity toward us and our children in the foyer of City Hall.
UPDATE: Our neighbor is now suing the City of Lake Geneva and ourselves in the Circut Court of Walworth County. The court date is set for Friday, February 13, 2009. We are still planning to open soon.
UPDATE: February 14, 2009. The Judge ordered briefs to be submitted by all lawyers involved by the first week of August, with a decision due anytime after that. We will be opening March 20th as planned.
UPDATE: March 9, 2009, City Council approves a beer and wine license for Bistro 220 after we collected over 700 signatures on our petition. BISTRO 220 OPENED MARCH 19,2009.
UPDATE: September, 2009-The neighbor a few doors behind us loses his lawsuit trying to shut us down, costing us many thousands of dollars in lawyers fees. UPDATE: September, 2009-After collecting 2000 signatures on a petition for us to be able to seat people on the balcony past dusk, the city council unanimously passed this adjustment to our conditional use.
UPDATE: December, 2009-Our third attempt of obtaining a Class B liquor license fails. Once again it was given to another establishment. We are hoping the next one available is given to us because we will have the most applications applied for out of any other restaurant.
March 19th, 2010 1st Anniversary Celebration - Thanks to everyone who helped us celebrate this milestone!
May 24th, 2010 City Council denied us of a Class B liquor license for the 4th time! We collected over 1000 signatures on our petition and over 40 local residents sent emails to each alderperson supporting Bistro 220 receiving this license. The City Clerk also received countless emails in support. The council completely disregarded the peoples voice!
We would like to thank all of our business neighbors, close by residents, friends, family and the rest of Lake Geneva who has supported us with this effort.It is all of you, with this outpouring of support that kept our dream alive.Thank you so much.
Bistro 220 bids farewell-
After six very successful and wonderful years I have decided to close the bistro in order to return to a more normal life. I want to be able to have time for myself once again, along with spending more time with family and friends. As many of you know I spend a great deal of time at the restaurant between prepping, managing and being out on the floor. This left very little time for myself and a lot has changed in the last 6 years. I feel at this point in my life, this is something I need to do. I hope all my loyal customers understand this and know that I will truly miss everyone. I fought tooth and nail to bring this community one of the finest, most unique and intimate eating establishments around and I believe I accomplished that. I also have appreciated all of your fabulous comments over the past 6 years. I survived through the roughest of economies and the continuing denial of a liquor license. I made lemonade out of lemons by offering top of the line sake martinis in which people came from all around to try as the word spread. I also want to thank all of the downtown businesses that have supported me over the years. This decision to close is very hard for me, but one I have to make in order to restart my life again. I know I will miss it tremendously, it is something that has always been in my blood. I'm hoping to see many of you around town, because I'm not going anywhere anytime soon. I love Lake Geneva and I'm hoping with some of my spare time to be able to get even more involved with the community. Keep in touch by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, thank you so much for allowing me to serve you.
A tearful so long-
PS- A special thank you to all my wonderful employees for their understanding and support!
I move into the space previously occupied by the bistro to enjoy all of its beauty!
May 2016- Ole Bistro Inn opens its doors with 3 fabulous upscale vacation rental suites