Arcada Theatre looking to reopen in new year

Has been closed since March because of the pandemic

The new year is expected to bring new life to the Arcada Theatre in downtown St. Charles, which has been closed since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When it reopens, the building will not look the same. The historic theater and its sister operation, Club Arcada, are undergoing a major renovation project that includes new eateries, hotel suites and additional bathrooms.

The expansion 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 Co.

Several hotel suites – the Arcadian 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 just east of the Arcada building. Each suite will have a music theme, such as Elvis, Led Zeppelin or The Beatles.

“I’ve got a jail cell door from the 1930s that we’re going to put up here,” 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. “It’s going to be a whole ‘Jailhouse Rock’ type of thing.”

He looks at the hotel suites as another amenity he can offer customers.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on providing very unique opportunities and experiences for people,” Onesti said.

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

Another new restaurant, Rock ’N Ravioli, 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.”

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

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

The Arcada Theatre’s former retail store is being transformed into BarCada, which will feature a full-service bar and video gaming.

Onesti is trying to be optimistic that he will be up and running again sooner rather than later.

“For me, the sun’s coming out tomorrow,” he said.

Onesti expects the Rock ’N Za restaurant will be one of the first things to open. Under the state’s current COVID-19 restrictions, restaurants are not allowed to offer indoor dining.

He hopes the Arcada Theatre will be able to reopen by Valentine’s Day, acknowledging that it might not be able to open at full capacity because of pandemic restrictions.

“That would be a nice present for all of us,” he said.

When the building reopens, Onesti said they will do as much as they can to make patrons feel as safe as possible.

“We are a live music hall that’s going to do the best we can to keep everybody safe and healthy, no matter what,” he said.

In May 2005, Onesti Entertainment Corp. assumed ownership of theater operations. The historic building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, first opened its doors in 1926 and attracted performers such as George Burns and Gracie Allen.

Onesti appreciates the building’s history and is trying to preserve it.

“I really wanted to respect the history,” he said.

Club Arcada is a nod to the building’s past. It originally was on the first floor of the Arcada Theatre building when it opened in December 1934. It featured cocktails, fine dining and live music.

While the Arcada Theatre has been shut down, Onesti Entertainment has been providing virtual events, including the ongoing show “Hangin’ and Bangin’ With Carmine & Vinny Appice,” who are two well-known rock drummers. The show features interviews with guest musicians.

“We talk about rock ’n’ roll and some of their quirks and some of their hits,” Onesti said. “I’m about to start another show, probably in January, that’s going to be a little more focused on some of the heritage acts like The Buckinghams and The Ides of March. For us, we’re just trying to let people know that we’re still here, that we’re going to be here and survive this.”

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf covers St. Charles and writes entertainment stories for the Kane County Chronicle.