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Friedhof Oak Room opening outdoor patio soon

November 28, 2018

Several people were buzzing around The Friedhof Oak Room on Monday afternoon knowing the big countdown had begun.

Next week, with some help from Mother Nature, venue owners Rob and Tracy Gasper are tentatively scheduled to open the business’ outdoor patio along 27th Avenue. It will be the first outdoor patio in the right-of-way, according to City of Columbus Administrator Tara Vasicek.

For the Gaspers, it’s another step in the right direction when it comes to the vision for the old Schweser’s building they had when they purchased it back in mid-2017.

“We just always thought it would be great for downtown,” Rob Gasper said, adding he and his wife were inspired by the many communities they visited over the years which had outdoor patios that created a ‘friendly neighborhood atmosphere.’ “It’s such a great location for it.”

The Gaspers and several other downtown business owners went to the Columbus City Council, as previously reported by The Telegram, over the summer to ask for approval in allowing downtown businesses to operate outdoor areas by following rules set by the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission. The City Council soon after voted in favor of it.

“The City has been really good to work with,” Gasper said.

Shortly after Columbus Days wrapped in August, construction kicked into gear on the brick-side space that is about 350 square feet and partially covered.

“Shelby Lumber did much of the design-build,” Gasper said. “The project came together pretty quick with their help.”

The space has a railing along its edge that allows ample room for those passing by and meets Americans with Disabilities (ADA) requirements. On Monday afternoon, Hoefer Electric Inc. officials were doing some work in the building just hours after the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission and state fire marshal had been there in regard to the business’ new liquor license and the patio’s construction, respectively.

“There have been quite a few steps; this has been a process,” Gasper said, with a smile.

Believe it or not, the owners aren’t ready to slow down despite the patio’s pending opening. On Monday, work was being done on an upstairs space that Gasper said will open in January as an option for people to host business meetings and presentations, among other things. With time, they have plans to turn it into a multipurpose room. But, he noted he didn’t want to go into full detail yet as plans for the upstairs space continue to be in the works.

As for the patio, he’s eager for its opening and doesn’t expect winter-like weather to hinder it next week. The space is right off the building with two doors that can stay open. The Gaspers are also looking at having some heaters outside to keep people cozy when it’s a bit nippy out.

“People can drink and eat out there. It will be great for our events and outdoor activities,” he said, adding he’s especially excited about its use during Columbus Days and Lawn Chairs on the Square during the summer. “If it gets too crowded outside, people can come out and enjoy the fresh air.”

Gasper stressed the patio is not a bar and only for adults; it’s meant to be utilized by people of all ages. Enjoyment for all was part of its design, which boasts two historic photos of the former department store building above the patio and on the building’s exterior.

“Step back in time 100 years that’s the scene you would see,” Gasper said, pointing at the pictures and noting how Wunderlich’s was once right next door. “We just wanted to highlight the original building and give people something to talk about.”

Since opening earlier this year, Gasper said he’s been encouraged by the community’s support of their business and those around it. Seeing downtown Columbus prosper was, in a way, part of their original reasoning for rolling the dice and purchasing the building to begin with over a year ago.

“It’s fantastic. It’s absolutely fantastic,” he said. “It’s neat to see people downtown again. Not just here, but all over. People are going around the downtown and enjoying the businesses, the activities. That’s not something you saw at one time.”

The venue is open from 4-11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. It can be reached at 402-710-2044.

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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