BATAVIA – A downtown Batavia bank building will become home to a comedy club.
Michael Knuth, owner of the EvenFlow entertainment venue in Geneva, plans to open his new venture in the historic Batavia National Bank building at 18 E. Wilson St.
At a committee meeting Tuesday, the Batavia City Council approved a $25,000 grant and a $75,000 low-interest 2% loan for building owner Michael Marconi to make renovations to the structure, now estimated at $250,000.
The Comedy Vault will feature two shows a night on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with the space available for other activities on the remaining days of the week, Knuth said.
“We want to be a venue,” Knuth said.
In order to turn the interior space into a nightclub with seating for 100, the city will require Marconi to retrofit the building with fire sprinklers, an expensive proposition. Marconi indicated he will seek a grant from the city to help fund the work.
The grant and loan money approved by the council committee will come from tax-increment financing district funds and is included in the municipal budget, City Administrator Laura Newman said.
Knuth’s EvenFlow is located in a former bank building at 302 W. State St., standing at the corner of State and Third streets in the heart of downtown Geneva.
Likewise, the Batavia bank building has a commanding presence at the southwest corner of East Wilson and South River streets.
Founded in 1909, the Batavia National Bank was a downtown anchor for many years. Ultimately, the bank became known simply as Batavia Bank when its status changed to a state bank in the 1970s.
In the 1980s and 1990s, ownership changes were reflected in the name, which at one point was saddled with the ponderous title of First Chicago Gary-Wheaton Bank of Batavia. Later, the building was occupied by Valley Community Bank.
The structure has been vacant since the last occupant, First State Bank of Batavia, moved out of the space this past summer.
The bank’s original name is etched into the building façade, flanked by classical Ionic columns.
South of the limestone building is a large parking lot which Marconi resurfaced last spring. Marconi plans to eliminate the bank’s drive-thru canopy and equipment on the south side of the building, regarded as unsightly.