Home Youth service Delhi’s theater transformed into dining and events destination

Delhi’s theater transformed into dining and events destination

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The transformation of the old Capitol Theater building in downtown Delhi – and its new owners – is nearing completion.

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Built in 1933 as a movie and vaudeville venue, the theater closed in the 1960s but later reopened as The Gold Leaf Restaurant until the late 1990s.

Warner Maerten and his family took it over in 2005 and began renovations that returned the building to its theatrical roots, opening in 2008 as the Backstage Capitol Theater.

“We’re working with some really great people in the industry to bring great bands back to Delhi,” said Jordan Gawley, who along with Darcy Fournier and Mike Robins are the three business partners. “We have a pretty cool stage.”

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Gawley said the previous owners had built “a really good thing” with tribute band performances that would sell the entertainment venue. The previous volunteer team has been retained, and shows in the event center portion of the building – Capitol 33 – are already selling out.

Upcoming shows include My Son The Hurricane, a Niagara-based funk brass band featuring trumpets, trombones, saxophones, drums, guitar and vocals who will take the stage on November 17.

Canadian singer/songwriter Matthew Good’s November 24 show is already sold out, but a waiting list for tickets that may become available can be viewed at ticketscene.ca/capitol33

Gawley moved to Norfolk 10 years ago when he started working as a youth service officer at Sprucedale, a Simcoe youth detention centre. He also played in a band and started Black Creek Music, a DJ service that became a full-time gig.

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“Five years ago we worked with Venture Norfolk and got a business loan,” Gawley said, recalling how he set up the Norfolk Wedding Lounge in Vittoria which eventually had to be closed temporarily during the pandemic lockdowns.

“During COVID (the Capitol Theatre) came on the market, and it’s this big, beautiful theater with so much potential. Warner (Maerten), Monique and Jeff – the previous owners – were about to retire, he explained. “With all the story and character here, we thought if we put in some elbow grease, we could really pull it off.”

Darcy Fournier and Mike Robins, members of a local men’s investment group, approached Gawley during the pandemic, suggesting the trio create an upscale experience for weddings and events by establishing a restaurant – Lounge 33 – at the front of the building.

The partners invested $300,000 in creating the restaurant and kitchen and borrowed $150,000 to cover construction costs.

Chef Jeff Lethbridge, formerly of a golf resort in Windsor, was hired to manage the kitchen.

“We are designing a restaurant around what we expect from our wedding dinners,” he said, noting that local foods and butchers would be used.

Fournier, owner of A and T Electric, said the opportunity to open a restaurant in his hometown of Delhi is exciting.

“We’re excited for what the future holds, creating a great place for people to come together,” he shared. “I think this facility will be a great addition in bringing Delhi back to where it once was.”

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The opening of Lounge 33 is scheduled for early August.

Gawley said it was a shame the Belgian club, where Rush and Chubby Checker once played, was torn down, but finds venues in the region tend to work together rather than competitively.

“There are plenty of beautiful venues like Burning Kiln Winery and Cranberry Creek Garden – some of Canada’s most sought after places to get married – right here in Norfolk.”

Gawley believes their efforts will “bring the blood back to Delhi” and create a great dining and entertainment option.

“I’ve been here for 10 years,” he said. “I grew up in Niagara Falls and Toronto, but I would never leave Norfolk since moving here. It is a very good place to live and do business.

The development of the websites – capitol33.ca and lounge33.ca – is almost complete.

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