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Bringing back the Junction
Several years in the process, the Junction House Tavern, located on the corner of Wis. 81 and County J, is mere months away from re-opening after a fire destroyed it nearly six years ago. (Times photo: Anthony Wahl)
TOWN OF MONROE - Five and a half years after it burned down, the Junction House Tavern is just months away from opening back up.

New owner Charles Bentayou expects to open the bar's doors by this summer, in time for patrons to play volleyball outside. He bought the Junction House property at the corner of Wisconsin 81 and County J within a year after a fire destroyed it Aug. 9, 2007, and spent the next several years getting zoning applications and other paperwork in order.

"We're excited to open and get back to the Junction House, the way it was," he said. Bentayou, a Florida native who has lived in the Monroe area for a decade, started rebuilding the bar last August. At first he expected a March 1 opening, then joked about opening it April 1. Now he's anticipating unveiling the bar a little later, but definitely by the beginning of summer.

The interior is taking shape. The dry wall is up, the pipes are in the floor for beer taps, and Bentayou has already hand-built a pair of old-style saloon doors dividing the grill and bar area. Eventually he plans to use the second floor as a banquet hall.

"I want to build a brand new place that looks 50 years old," he said. To achieve this effect, he's collected wood from old barns to panel the bar walls. He's constructing the building as "heavy-duty" as possible and expects to get it certified as a tornado shelter.

Bentayou is a first-time business owner. His current line of work is installing and inspecting conveyor systems in factories across the country. The Junction House is his retirement plan.

From the township's perspective, the Junction House is on track with zoning and licensing.

"We have to inspect the building, but if the building passes, they'll be set to go," said Karen Sutter, Town of Monroe clerk.

Before it burned in 2007, the Junction House had been open in some form since 1858, Bentayou said. It's rumored to have housed a brothel upstairs at one point.

"I could imagine if these walls could talk, they would say a lot," he said.