HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- The Monkey Bar & Grille (a.k.a. the Train Stop) has a unique history. There was a chimp that drank and smoked for patrons, and the bar once had a gun-toting owner.
That is all changing. Mark Altemeier is the new sheriff -- so to speak -- at the bar along Old 3C Highway in Hamilton Township -- or Foster, as the locals call it. He and his wife Amy purchased the bar last spring and are the principal owners. Once done, Altemeier said their investment will be in the six-figure range.
Altemeier and associates Cody Tipton and Dale McOsker have grand plans for the historical bar located in one form or another along the Little Miami River since 1841.
Up first, change the culture of the place, they said.
“More of a family-friendly atmosphere than a biker bar,” said McOsker, who is vice president of operations.
“It will be run like a restaurant bar and grill,” Altemeier said. “It’s not going to be a bar, that’s key.”
He explained the bar will emphasize cuisine more than booze -- 70 percent food, 30 percent alcohol “is kind of what we are gearing for.”
With that, Altemeier is developing a 24-tap system for craft beers made of copper and steel that he says is “really unique.”
“Only one in the world created like this,” Altemeier said.
The new owner also plans to utilize the outdoor patio more effectively than the previous owner.
“This is the only restaurant bar that’s got 6,000 square feet of patio space on the Little Miami River, on the river’s edge, that overlooks the Little Miami,” Altemeir said.
McOsker said the patio will be for families now, not motorcycles.
And, if the Army Corps of Engineers OKs it, a floating dock will be installed below the patio to bring in off-the-river canoe and kayak enthusiasts.
Tipton, the general manager, said a separate bar will be on the patio. Altemeier likened it to a cabana bar. The patio is unique because it has a lower deck, Altemeier added.
The group sees the nearby bike trail hub, Foster’s Park, as an asset. Cyclists, runners and walkers will be a marketing target of the new owner and his associates.
The Monkey Bar & Grille will sponsor cycling events and 5K runs, Altemeier said.
The basement will be available for special events such as weddings, parties and fundraisers. Also planned is a separate micro-brewery to the north of the bar and café to the east. The café, to be called the Kickstand, will offer coffee blends and breakfast. Altemeier also will increase parking on the three acres he owns to accommodate motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles.
A lot of what Altemeier envisions will depend on zoning approval from Hamilton Township, but he does not see that being a problem.
The building housing the bar is 5,000 square feet and comprised of two floors. It is built like a fortress. Consequently, only the inside is under renovation. A small bar remains open on the top floor.
Altemeier plans to start serving food on a small scale in the fall. Renovation of the bar that started last spring is expected to be done by April 2018.
“There will be hot wings and such, but also the bar and grill will provide health foods” like wraps, salads and sandwiches, Tipton said. “As far as service, we are going to try to do the absolute best we can.”
And what of the regulars that have called the Monkey Bar & Grille home for years?
“If they want to be part of the new Train Stop Monkey Bar & Grille, they are welcome here,” Altemeier said.
Altemeier, who lives in Maineville, calls himself an entrepreneur. He started Altemeier Mechanical, Heating Contractors & Specialties, Fosters Farms and UTV Hitchworks. He has a patent on a three-point hitch he invented for Kubota UTVs.
Altemeier added he does not intend to forget the monkey, or Sam the chimp in this case. He intends to erect a bronze statue and plaque that will tell a little history of the chimp that was part of the bar in the 1980s until the health department ended that.