LAKESHORE - A revival is about to take place at the site which once housed Looney’s Tavern complex and amphitheater, and it is not a church meeting.
This revival will bring life back to the facilities that once housed the Looney’s Tavern complex off of Highway 278 in the Lakeshore area, thanks to an ongoing effort by the Winston County Arts Council, which is working hard to purchase the facilities and grounds. However, the arts council needs the public’s help, as far as donations, in order to secure the amount needed for the $80,000 down payment in order to purchase the site from present owners T.J. and Mickey Millican.
At a recent meeting of the Resource Conservation and Development Council held at Lakeshore Inn, a special presentation was made by State Representative Tim Wadsworth and State Senator Garlan Gudger of $5,000 to the Arts Council, to be used as funding toward purchasing Looney’s.
“I am proud to continue to support the Winston County Arts Council,” Gudger pointed out. “The educational aspect of what they do, along with the vision of expanding the arts back to Looney’s Tavern, is exciting for all of north Alabama. My goal is to aid in any way I possibly can through the state and personally to continue to expand their art programs in the future.”
The presentation was made from School Service Grant Funds, according to legislators.
State Representative Tracy Estes, who could not be attendance for the RC&D meeting due to a family emergency, sent his support for the donation and for the cause of helping the arts council.
“I am always grateful to have the opportunity to support the Arts Council because of the opportunities they provide to the people of Winston County. I have been to several of their events and have never walked away disappointed,” Estes added. “It is my honor to participate in anything that brings honor to this organization.”
As of press time, $12,000 has been raised, for the down payment, emphasized Theresa Snoddy, vice chairman of the arts council. A ball park figure of the purchase price of the entire complex is around $300,000, according to arts council members.
On Friday, Aug. 26, Theresa, along with her husband and arts council president, J.D. Snoddy, and Tracey Alvey, artistic director and CEO of the Alabama Ballet, visited the Looney's Tavern site along with Wadsworth.
“I am here to support the arts council in trying to help get funding to make this a reality,” Wadsworth said, “because Looney’s Tavern is right in the center of the entire county. It will absolutely benefit all the cities in this area. The arts council does a tremendous job of bringing arts to our county.
“For years, the Looney’s Tavern (site) has been closed,” added Wadsworth. “I think it’s a centerpiece for tourism for Winston County.”
The arts council’s mission in purchasing the Looney’s Tavern site, is a major way to promote tourism while expanding a variety of possibilities centered around the arts, J.D. Snoddy said. Although the arts council plans to purchase the entire complex, they plan to develop or renovate only a section at a time, as funding permits, members said.
The 501(c)(3) arts council is currently relying on donations, but after it purchases the site, it will be able to secure grants, J.D. added.
“We have always been looking for a headquarters for the arts council, and we have always had our eyes on Looney’s,” J.D. said. “We are working hard to get the money together in order to be able to purchase it, put it back in working order and make it a place that all the people in Winston County and from all the places in the state can enjoy. It has a lot of potential.“
The 8.5 acre site includes the former Dual Destiny indoor theater, which seats 300; the amphitheater, which seats 1,300; the former Sister Sara’s restaurant facility and log-style buildings where the gift shop, ticket office and concession area were once housed.
The first step, once the arts council purchases the site, will be to begin renovating the two sections of the park that can best be utilized plays, concerts or events--Dual Destiny indoor theatre and the amphitheater, where years of vacancy are taking their toll, with weeds and other wild growth in the outdoor seating area.
The stage area, where the “Incident of Looney’s Tavern” play was once performed, is still there with Looney’s Tavern signs still on it, but the scenery and props on the stage have become worn and faded.
Plans are to start renovations with Dual Destiny, since the facility, is “the closest to being ready,” J.D. said.
Dual Destiny theater has been used in recent years for gospel concerts and revivals, as well as plays from students participating in the Winston County Free State Theater Troupe created by the arts council.
The arts council also sponsored other events at the theater, J.D. noted.
“We want to make it more accessible for those types of performances,” he stated.
Plans are to add two dressing rooms as well as restrooms to the rear of the theater, he said.
“We are very thankful to donors who want to be a part of the arts council, and are a part of the arts council,” said J.D. “We’re hoping for some government contributions also to help with repairs and things like that.
“We’re just taking it one step at a time,” J.D. pointed out.
Donation accounts set up
The project is being made possible thanks to a combination of arts council funding and donations.
“We’re mainly depending on folks who are interested to contact us and talk about it,” J.D. said.
Those who would like to make donations to help the arts council toward making the down payment can contact J.D. at (205) 489-6569, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since the Winston County Arts Council is a non-profit organization, any donations made are tax deductible, according to J.D.
A GoFundMe account has also been set up and can be found through links on the arts council’s website www.winstoncountyartscouncil.org, as well as on its Facebook page, according to arts council members.
Each donor will be given a form by the arts council indicating the amount of their donation that can be presented when filing income taxes, according to J.D.
The main goal in bringing life back to Looney’s Tavern is to make it accessible to the entire county, the Snoddys pointed out. Funds that are raised from concerts and other events will not only be applied toward the costs, but also into promoting arts council programs throughout the county, J.D. noted.
The kitchen appliances and equipment have been removed from the former restaurant, but the facility can still be used for catered meals, J.D. further explained.
Plans are also to reopen the gift shop and use it to sell artwork from local artists, as well as other displays from local and area talent.
“First things first,” said J.D, “we’ve got to get the venues ready in order to have things for people to come out (to), and then we would work from there.”
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.