The old Star Hotel, located on Main Street, has a history that dates back to 1889. Once a simple, cottage-style home, the hotel was added on in the 1920s. Over the years, the historic piece of property has changed hands many times, finally ending up under the wing of Aaron Hofmann, who purchased the building in 2018.
Aaron took on the painstaking task of overseeing a full demolition and careful reconstruction of the historic building, which now houses the Star Bar and the Big Dipper restaurant. The project had to adhere to special regulations because of the building’s historical status and took three years to complete. The original stones from the 1920s facade had to be numbered and put back in the exact same order and windows of various sizes had to be found. The goal was to maintain the historic integrity of the building while offering visitors a clean, modern feel.
“When we were building it up, knowing that we would have a restaurant on the first floor and the event space on the top two floors. But then with COVID and all the events disappearing, Aaron decided he wanted to put a bar in there,” says Cortney Johanson, a partner in the Star Hotel venture. “We pivoted mid-design to create this new bar concept.”
Aaron is joined in the Star Hotel venture by his daughter Cortney, son-in-law Fabio Ferreira, and chef Matthew Safranek. The team also own and operate 350 Main and The Spur Bar & Grill.
The upper two floors of the Star Hotel house the Star Bar, an upscale cocktail lounge that provides guests with an intimate, sexy setting. High-top tables, comfy leather chairs, and a sleek bar make it the perfect place to settle in for a drink or two. To ensure guests are comfortable, the bar’s capacity does not exceed the number of seats, so there’s no need to worry about your drink getting jostled or not having a place to sit.
A high-end craft cocktail menu is complemented by an extensive wine and beer list, while food is delivered right to the bar from the Big Dipper restaurant downstairs.
“The Star Bar is the place to be,” says Marcus Llewelyn, general manager of the Star Bar. “It is a hidden gem at the top of Main Street — people can escape the madness happening on the rest of the street. Come in and try the drink Four Play, made with Four Roses small batch bourbon, grapefruit juice, lemon, Aperol, and simple syrup and garnished with rosemary.”
The Star Bar is the place to be on Friday and Saturday nights when there’s live, ambient music. It’s also a great place to have an event. In addition to its Main Street location and historic, yet modern feel, the bar has two floors that can accommodate up to 150 standing guests each. There’s also a beautiful deck on the back of the venue with heaters to increase the size of the space.
The Big Dipper, located on the main floor of the Star Hotel buidling, is a world-inspired sandwich spot with different types of dip sandwiches, salads, and soups. The menu pays homage to longtime local restauranter Adolph Imboden (owner of the now-closed Adolf’s Restaurant) with a raclette-style sandwich called A Hunk-a, Hunk-a Bernese Love and Karleen Reilly (owner of the now-closed Uptown Fare restaurant) with Karleen’s Uptown Turkey Grilled Cheese.
“I had been working for 350 and The Spur for so long that Cortney offered me part of the business about two years ago when we discussed the restaurant here,” Matthew, the chef at Big Dipper, explains.
“We are family friendly, casual, and fun. I love being able to create great flavors without having to fuss over plates.”
For dessert, Matthew serves up apple fritters the size of your hand and homemade donuts, which both pair perfectly with a serving of soft-serve ice cream. His donuts are so popular, customers started special ordering them for events.
“We recently put together a menu of smaller plates because people stop in the Star Bar on their way to dinner, so it’s a great option,” says Heather, who is Matthew’s fiancé and helps run the Big Dipper. “We all love working there, and Matt has such a creative energy — it is really fun.”