Illinois Lounge Has Quiet 'Butt' Distinctive Spirits

Tim Brueggeman, co-owner of the Spirits Lounge in the old Masonic Temple on State Street, says the name of his bar and restaurant can be interpreted two ways.

"We have had two or three ghost investigations here," Brueggeman said. "They all seem to gather evidence that they interpret as being (paranormal activity). This is supposedly one of the most haunted buildings in the area."

According to the company's Web site, several paranormal investigators believe that former Masons continue to haunt the building, including the famous "Mr. Butt Print" who sits on dusty surfaces and leaves his mark.

Although he has not personally seen anything too spooky, Brueggeman does not rule out any possibilities.

"We have had a few occurrences," he said. "We had one guest who claimed to be a skeptic and he said a ghost grabbed his shoulder, so who knows?

"Hopefully the ghosts like the changes we have made to the building."

Spirits Lounge opened in May 2007 as a combination bar and banquet center. Co-owner Gary Graham purchased the building in March 2006.

"We have been friends for about eight years," Brueggeman said. "We would go boating together.

"Greg's house was on the haunted Alton tour, and he noticed this place on the tour as well. When the building came up for sale a couple of years later, he bought it."

Although the location was perfect for what the duo had in mind, to say that renovations were extensive would be an understatement.

"We really gutted it and built the bar from scratch," said Brueggeman, who also works at Wachovia Securities. "We filled up close to 20 full-size dumpsters. We cut the granite for the bar and restained everything. I must have lost 30 pounds by the time we opened.

"I thought it was going to be the death of me."

In the end, the hard work seems to have paid off. Customers walk in the front door, take a set of stairs to the left, and are greeted to a friendly yet classy bar on the second floor. Guests can sit in the dining area for a relaxing dinner, or stake claim on a bar stool for some friendly chatter with the bartender.

The third floor is Brueggeman's pride and joy. The 3,600-square-foot banquet room features space for 220 guests, six chandeliers and a separate bar and is perfect for weddings, special events and business meetings. Brueggeman said a wedding could be held in the elegant banquet room, followed by a festive reception just one floor down.

"We can do it all in one place," he said. "That has worked out really well. The dance floor is portable if space is an issue. The DJ or band can also use the elevated stage above the bar."

Even the restrooms are impressive, with green marble everywhere and high-powered hand dryers that must be experienced to be believed.

April 2008 saw the introduction of a full restaurant menu including appetizers, salads, pizzas and full dinner selections.

"(Our menu) pretty much covers the gamut," Brueggeman said. "Strangely enough, the spicy olives are one of our biggest sellers. They are cheese-filled, deep-fried, and come with homemade chipotle dipping sauce."

Spirits Lounge boasts an experienced service team, including bartender Brett Ayres, renowned local chef John Strader, and manager Paivi Pulkkinen, who ensures everything is running smoothly on a nightly basis.

"She really sweats the details," Brueggeman said.

The team also stays active in the Alton area with events and fund-raising opportunities.

"We are one of the supporters of the block parties," Brueggeman said. "We try to stay involved with the community. (For example), 5A's are hosting a trivia night here on February 20."

The bar features live music events and drink specials, including $3 Cosmo martinis on Wednesday and Thursday and $2 Bud Light draft every day.

The building also will be the subject of a television special on ghosts featuring local paranormal investigator Gary Hawkins later this year.

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