Metro-East News

Hofbräuhaus owner dies on his 80th birthday

Chuck Keller, the Effingham businessman who developed the Hofbräuhaus German restaurant and brewery that opened in Belleville last March, died on Tuesday, which was his 80th birthday.

The cause of death was not available.

“Mr. Keller carried on the great entrepreneurial tradition in Effingham that was begun by his father and mother. Keller Oil Company and Keller Development Company brought many jobs and much joy to his chosen community of Effingham,” the Keller family said in a statement released Wednesday.

“He was able to finish his career with the successful development and launch of his most recent business, the Hofbräuhaus located in Belleville.”

Keller also served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1969 to 1977.

Prior to being elected to the House, Keller was “intimately involved as president of the Illinois Young Democrats in the campaign and election of President John F. Kennedy.”

The $12 million Hofbräuhaus opened about two years later than the Keller family had originally expected on the site off Illinois 15 across from the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.

Keller rarely spoke publicly about the project, which was valued at $90 million and was originally announced in early 2015. He worked on the project with his son, Chane Keller.

In November 2016, Chuck Keller was asked if he was frustrated by the delays in the hotel and Hofbräuhaus construction and he said, “That goes with a lot of projects.”

He also released a letter that month saying criticism of his plan was hurting progress.

“After two years of attempting to smile while hearing of falsehoods and innuendoes about us, our businesses and our family, we ask simply that people not interfere and rather allow us to do what we said we would do,” Keller wrote.

The Keller family told the BND in 2015 that they had either full or partial ownership in nine hotels. They have said up to four hotels could be built next to the Hofbräuhaus.

While the Hofbräuhaus is the only business to have been built on the site, a company spokesman said last week that talks are underway with two separate development groups that would like to build an “upscale, national” hotel next to the Hofbräuhaus.

The city spent $2.42 million to extend sewers to the site and granted tax incentives worth over $30 million.

Mayor Mark Eckert said he first began working with Keller on developing the site in 2014.

“The city of Belleville is appreciative, those of us who see the project for what it really is and what it means to the Shrine and everybody, we’re very grateful that he came along,” Eckert said.

Eckert said there were times in recent years that Keller was hospitalized and that his illness contributed to delays in the project.

Keller is survived by his wife of 35 years, Doris, and several other family members.

Visitation will be 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Effingham. A Mass of Christian burial will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church with burial in Oakridge Cemetery.

Bauer Funeral Home is handling funeral arrangements.

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Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an assistant editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and grew up in St. Louis.