The Regent Street Retreat, one of Madison’s largest nightclubs, was sold this week. The new owners intend to keep it as a music venue but also play up its proximity to Camp Randall Stadium and the Kohl Center and turn it into a giant sports bar.
“I’ve been working on this deal for over a year and a half,” said Rick Imhoff, who bought the building with three partners. They closed on the property Wednesday. Bruce Gerhartz owned the business for 30 years, he said.
Plans call for a total remodel, including cutting the front off the building and installing all glass, as well as changing the entrance, Imhoff said.
“We’re going to put up a bunch of bling — LED lighting, whatever the city will allow us to do,” he said.
Once it secures a liquor license, the new business at 1212 Regent St. will be called the Red Zone. The partners want to open under the new name in time for the football season opener Aug. 31.
They are currently still operating under the name Regent Street Retreat but plan on opening with their own band roster the weekend of July 5.
In a second phase of the remodel, possibly in the winter, they plan to consolidate the space into one room with a stage at the far end, Imhoff said.
The business is currently in three buildings with two rooms, each of which holds about 350 people. The capacity of the Red Zone is estimated on the new owners’ application as 625.
Imhoff’s partners are Richard Booy, Ryan Hoelker and Patricia Gehler.
Hoelker spent more than seven years at the Stadium Bar, where he was a general manager. That bar closed in April to make way for a student housing development.
The Red Zone will offer a sports bar menu, similar to what was at the Stadium Bar.
“The Stadium Bar speaks for itself,” Imhoff said. “They had an extensive menu with excellent cooks, and we’re bringing all that here.”
The Red Zone also aims to be a live music venue, bringing in touring acts. “It’s not about metal rock ‘n roll, or punk rock ‘n roll, or country-western. This is about entertainment,” said Imhoff, whose rock band, Falcon, recently got back together and performed at Brat Fest.
The band is the original lineup from 1978 minus the drummer who died of a heart attack on stage in 1990, said Imhoff, 58, who plays rhythm and lead guitar.
Imhoff, who is known as “Ricky Lee,” also worked for two years as the personal guitar roadie for Ted Nugent.
He took a break from the music business to pursue auto racing and after losing his racing funding, decided to go back to music.
“Yeah, so what, you’re old,” Imhoff said. “You didn’t forget how to ride the bicycle.”