Libby Mann has promoted the city of Madison, Ind., ever since she arrived here 21 years ago from Mitchell, Ind., to purchase and operate the Historic Broadway Hotel & Tavern. And she’s still promoting the city through her recent purchase of the former JoeyG’s Restaurant & Nightclub at 218 E. Main St. Mann plans to renovate, rename and re-open the restaurant sometime in August. It will be called Miss Libby’s on Main.
Mann bought the building May 17 from Cheri Gayles, widow of the late Joe Gayles, a Louisville, Ky., native who first opened the restaurant in July 2000. He died Oct. 27, 2012, at age 54 from kidney disease. Cheri Gayles continued to operate the restaurant until April 1, when she closed it.
Photo by Don Ward
Libby Mann, who owns the Historic Broadway Hotel & Tavern and The Livery Stable, has purchased the former JoeyG’s Restaurant & Nightclub at 218 E. Main St., Madison. She plans to remodel it and re-open it possibly in August as Miss Libby’s On Main.
Joe Gayles made quite a name for himself among Madison’s music and arts community by promoting both at his restaurant. When he opened, he promoted “live music seven nights a week.” Through the years, Gayles, an artist himself, was able to maintain that ambitious promise, but later scaled back the music program in the offseason and slow months. Local artist Patty Cooper Wells served as the curator for “Art on the Walls at JoeyG’s,” through which she featured a different local artist’s work each month for 13 years. Wells’ own work, a wall-sized mural, is perhaps the most prominent feature at JoeyG’s. The mural was painted onto the right-side wall of the restaurant and features legendary musicians Robert Johnson, Bob Marley, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis. She painted the mural during the first month of the restaurant’s opening and while customers watched. She also painted “Music Heaven” murals on the walls of the two restrooms.
And, of course, there’s the food and live music – much like Joe Gayles envisioned the place to be 13 years ago.
Mann and her two sons, Ryan and Larry, have only recently begun exploring the extensive renovation project ahead. The building has three floors and a basement. The Gayles lived on the second floor, and it is rentable, but Mann must provide an outside entrance to rent it.
“The kitchen needs to be completely redone. And we plan to renovate the restaurant to provide more seating area and more space behind the bar for workers,” said Mann, 64.
She plans to bring in smaller tables, create more bar and bar stool seating along the left wall near the stage, and move the existing bar out some and farther down toward the stage. She must also address the sound system and stage lighting and has discussed ideas with local musicians for ways to improve both.
She is not sure what she will do with Wells’ wall-sized mural. But she plans to discuss with Heitz Sign Co. the possibility of capturing the mural digitally and reproducing it for display in a different way at the restaurant.
As for the walls at Miss Libby’s on Main, Mann has some unique ideas. “I want to keep the theme a surprise for the grand opening, but it will be something to promote the history of Madison,” she said.
Mann, who was educated at the University of Cincinnati as a nurse and anesthetist, works full time at St. Vincent Jennings Hospital in North Vernon. She fell in love with Madison and wants to pay tribute to the town through photos and memorabilia to be displayed on the walls at her newest venture.
She also plans to offer a light and healthy menu and focus on lunch. There will be few fried foods on the menu at Miss Libby’s. No hamburgers and French fries. Instead, you will find salads and wraps and lighter fare.
And you will find live music. “I plan to make this a nightclub atmosphere at night – the party place of Madison,” she said. Mann says she will continue the popular weekly Open Mic Night and continue to promote local bands. But she also hopes to bring in up-and-coming acts from nearby cities like Nashville, Cincinnati and Louisville.
“This place will still be known for live music,” she said.
Clint Bear of Madison makes custom guitars for musicians around the country and has been asked to consult on the sound system. He says the sound there is “adequate but needs tweaking. The acoustics are OK, but if you sat by the stage you got blown out. There just needs to be a way to spread it out so it is more consumer friendly,” Bear said. “We have just begun discussing the project, so I really don’t know yet what can be done. It could be daunting or it could be a piece of cake.”
Mann, meanwhile, has been involved in extensive renovations of her own restaurant and the 12 hotel rooms on the upper floors at the Broadway Hotel. She is also installing a new heating and air conditioning system throughout the building and renovating all of the hotel rooms. She also plans to install permanent glass walls around the outdoor patio so she can offer year-round dining in an area that can be heated or cooled.
“It will cut down on the live music we offer on the patio, but I plan to make the dining more upscale there and bring the party here to Miss Libby’s,” she said. She has not yet decided whether to allow smoking. Her sons favor non-smoking, but Mann, a smoker, says she is undecided. JoeyG’s was non-smoking.
She said she would be hiring up to 12 new employees to operate the new restaurant. She currently employs nine core people at the Broadway and many more workers seasonally.
Regarding the huge renovation project ahead, Mann says, “It’s hard work but it’s rewarding. I love it.”
When she is finished, she hopes the public will also love Miss Libby’s, especially the motif honoring Madison’s historic past. “I think the people of Madison are going to really love the theme. It will be great for tourists and a show of pride for local residents.”
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout.
Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: Don@RoundAbout.bz.