Former Club Rio nightclub has new owner

The former Club Rio nightclub at 136 Franklin St., Watertown, has been purchased by local businessman Jacob S. “Jake” Johnson. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Local businessman Jacob S. “Jake” Johnson has added another property to his growing real estate portfolio after acquiring the former Club Rio nightclub at 136 Franklin St.

Under the business name VanDuzee Street Properties LLC, Mr. Johnson bought the former nightclub — the scene where five Club Rio patrons were victims of a mass shooting in 2018 — for $102,517 from Franklin Street Rental Inc., according to Jefferson County Clerk records.

“It will never be a nightclub or bar again,” he said Monday.

Club Rio was quickly shut down after the shooting by then owner David Garlock and has been vacant ever since.

Mr. Johnson said that he has a couple of potential tenants who want to open a coffee and bagel shop in it. If that doesn’t happen, he’ll find another suitable tenant for the building after it undergoes renovations in the spring.

He was interested in the property because it’s attached to a building he already owns and its parking lot can be used for tenants of the Commerce Building he owns across the street, Mr. Johnson said.

In July 2019, he purchased the Commerce Building at 26-44 Public Square, an adjacent 6,000-square-foot building at 124-132 Franklin St. and a series of other downtown buildings along Public Square and Court Street for $1,325,000 from developer Brian H. Murray.

All of the downtown properties he owns are currently occupied, mentioning that NBC Watertown offices have expanded, and a barbecue restaurant recently opened in the Commerce Building.

“Everything is going good,” he said.

Despite the coronavirus, Mr. Johnson thinks that downtown is back on track. Recently, he drove through Public Square when he heard some music and saw a crowd at Spokes Craft Beer and Tapas.

“I haven’t see downtown with so much action,” he said. “It made me smile.”

Last spring, Mr. Johnson sold Jake’s Lawn Care and Landscaping and Jake’s Garden Center so that he could devote all of his time to his real estate holdings company.

This year, Mr. Johnson also made news for his plans to place two digital billboards on the building he owns at 104 Court St., but downtown is along a historic scenic highway that prohibits electronic signs. He awaits approval from the state whether he can proceed with his plans.

His other holdings include seven residential properties on Union Street, the Rouse complex at 513 Washington St., an apartment building at 505 Washington St. and Freedom Plaza at 26121 Route 11.

In 2018, he also opened State St. Market, an indoor series of vendors selling furniture, antiques and gifts at 454 State St.

The five victims of the shooting outside the nightclub recovered, and the former Florida man convicted in the shooting was sentenced to five years in state prison.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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