A historic, former movie theater built in 1922 that once showed silent films will once again stream images to crowds in a darkened room.
But this time, patrons will not be munching on popcorn, but drinking beer brewed on-site, dining on full-course meals, enjoying Wi-Fi access and buying fresh bread that is baked daily, also on-site, all while silent film images are projected from a large screen on a back wall.
A developer is transforming the vacant 10,000 square-foot-Palace Theater in Downtown Quakertown into a brew pub, bar/restaurant with separate entrance and space for a new bakery/coffee shop. The renovation work, not including the bar fit-out, cost about $1 million, he said.
John Schlupp, a Quakertown resident and developer, specializes in restoration with his borough-based business Classic Renovations.
He said the site will offer space for second floor dining in multiple areas. He said he has been working to restore the structure for modern day use while retaining historic elements, including some of the original movie theater chairs and the stage, which is the home of the new kitchen.
“We exposed the brick where the stage was,” said Schlupp, who owns the building.
He said he plans to include modern live music performances from a stage on a balcony above the kitchen.
He will reuse some of the original early 20th century movie posters he discovered inside the building as display signs or menus.
The building, at 117 W. Broad St., will have both a front and side entrance with available parking on both sides and be updated with Americans with Disability Act requirements.
Schlupp, with the help of subcontractors, removed the metal siding on the exterior of the building, exposed the brick underneath and completed the entire façade.
The dining area is designed to seat as many as 300 people, he said.
When patrons arrive, they can sit in the original theater chairs in a waiting area, he said.
“What I would like to see is an open kitchen experience in the back, with family-oriented, fine dining,” Schlupp said. “The whole building will have an open footprint.”
Glass walls would separate the brew pub from the dining area, which includes a horseshoe bar. The brew pub would manufacture and sell its beer, he added. At the front entrance, plans call for a brew pub store, where the homemade brews would be sold.
Next to the brew pub store, plans call for the Palace Bakery, which includes free Wi-Fi access, a coffee shop and homemade baked goods, including pies, bread and Pennsylvania Dutch-style food, Schlupp said.
He confirmed the bakery/coffee shop should open by July 1.
John Etherton, who will operate the bakery, said his parents owned a small mom and pop bakery in Hilltown that began in 1989 and grew into a landmark stop for baked goods, with everything created from scratch.
“Baking bread is kind of like the backbone of American culture,” Etherton said. “I’m going to pull some old recipes. Why not consume a loaf of bread with no preservatives?”
Other items include cookies, muffins, danishes and scones, and possibly rolls and bread for restaurants, he added.
“It all depends on how quickly the business grows,” Etherton said.
Quakertown will benefit from the historic renovations that the building has undergone, he said.
“The building itself is a stunning, stunning piece of architecture,” Etherton said.
While Palace Bakery is confirmed as the name of the new bakery, a potential name for the brew pub is The Palace Brew Pub and Grill, though Schlupp did not confirm a tenant.
He said the borough council approved him to bring a liquor license into Quakertown. The Quakertown Brewing Co. is the name of the potential brew pub tenant.
By the end of the year, Schlupp said, he hopes to have secured the brew pub tenant and move the company’s business into the site.
In the 1970s, the building was home to Dimmig Electric, he added.
Schlupp bought the building in January 2013 for $235,000.
“I’ve got almost 20,000 vehicles a day through here,” Schlupp said. “I’ve got a really good location. I’m trying to capture that old charm in a 20th century building.”