Local developer has his sights set on Port Hotel

Port resident responsible for Harbour Lights project, Blues Factory plan wants to add inn, former restaurant to portfolio

THE LANDMARK Port Hotel restaurant and inn at the corner of Main and Wisconsin streets in downtown Port Washington could be changing hands soon. Developer Gertjan van den Broek said he has an accepted offer to buy the building from owner Joe Zankl. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Hotel restaurant and inn, a mainstay in downtown Port Washington for more than a century, is about to change hands.

Developer Gertjan van den Broek said this week he has an accepted offer to purchase the hotel and inn from Joe Zankl.

Van den Broek, who cautioned that the deal is in its early stages, said he wants to update the restaurant while keeping the inn open and aggressively marketing it.

He’s talking to a potential operator for the restaurant, which he said would “be in keeping with the history of the hotel, with good steaks and seafood.” 

Reopening the restaurant, which closed earlier this year, is essential, Van den Broek said.

“I personally feel the hotel doesn’t work without the restaurant,” he said.

His goal is to complete the purchase of the building early next year and have the restaurant open by summer, van den Broek said.

Van den Broek, who also owns the neighboring building that houses Willie’s Lakefront Lanes, said he is considering relocating some housekeeping rooms to that building and adding two more rooms to the inn.

Ultimately, he said, he would like to expand the inn to the bowling alley building, perhaps using the space for long-term stays.

“I bought that building (the bowling alley) specifically with a view to a larger downtown hotel development,” van den Broek said. “Everything I do, I try to get people to spend time downtown, where they can park the car, walk around, shop and eat.”

That would significantly increase the number of available hotel rooms in the area, but van den Broek said he believes his plan would be successful.

“I’m 100% sure that if people are given the choice to stay in a hotel with all downtown Port Washington has to offer or stay in a hotel off the freeway, they would pick the downtown hotel. That’s a no-brainer,” he said.

Zankl said his decision to sell the Port Hotel can be traced back to a traffic accident in August 2012 when he was rear-ended by a drunken driver, resulting in significant memory issues.

He said he believes in van den Broek’s plans for the Port Hotel.

“Ultimately, our goal is to sell the facility. We do hope Gertjan is going to be the next owner,” he said. “He has a vision that will be very good not only for the Port Hotel but the community.

“I want to see my legacy continue, and I think he’s the guy to do it.”

The Port Hotel traces its history to 1835, when it was built as a hotel and tavern. It operated under various owners until the hotel closed in 1973, but the restaurant survived.

Zankl purchased the Port Hotel from Dave and Debbie Wickesberg in 1997, and in 2005, he returned the business to its roots by opening the 10-room inn.

He closed the restaurant last fall because of his continuing memory issues, and later leased the restaurant to Ashley’s Bar-B-Que, but that proved a short-lived venture.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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