The revival has been ongoing in downtown Merced with the renovation of the El Capitan Hotel and the Mainzer theater on Main Street, bringing people in the 209 a hub of entertainment and upscale restaurants. They have quite the variety of merriment at the Mainzer with live shows on the main stage, movies in the cinema, a retro-gaming area, a self-serve beer bar and tasty pub food are all reasons that people are making their way to the heart of Merced.
Whether you are a local or a visitor, there is fun to be had at the Mainzer and it is worth the trip as there is a surprise at every turn with the art collection, design, or amenities that make this remodeled theater something truly special. What once was a storefront is now an indoor gaming area with Skeeball, a large scrabble board, Foosball, ping pong and much more.
Kim Garner, Director of Culture and Community Impact for the sister properties (El Capitan and Mainzer) explained that the Mainzer was originally built in the early1920s as a live performance theater and then it was turned into a movie theater. It burned down around 1930 or 1931 and then was rebuilt. It operated as a movie theater for a long period of time and was renovated in the late 1990s. The Mainzer reopened in 2020 with a fresh new look and new concept. Although that was a rough year to open, Garner noted that they had a really good response from the community.
“Opening through the pandemic was definitely difficult,” said Garner. “I will tell you this, Merced was so excited to see the property get revitalized. People were breathing on the windows to come in. It was really hard because when we opened, we had to do the social distancing; a lot of what we did had to be outside on the street. It was difficult but even with that, people were coming because they were excited to see what it was looking like inside and what we had done with the historic space and so it was really good.”
The lobby desk has board games and game pieces to play with on the custom tables that have checkers, chess, and trivial pursuit boards on them in the restaurant. Guests would never know that before the restaurant existed it was a bus station with the exposed beams that make up the ceiling, the décor, and the self-serve beer bar making it a one-of-a-kind experience. 
“We wanted to offer a space where people could come sit there for hours and enjoy yourself with your family or with your college buddies like the UC Merced students can hang out,” added Garner. “We are really proud of it. We are hoping that we offer as many different entertainment experiences possible in that space. I think there is literally something for everyone whether you like live performance or want to hang out with your family or friends; there is a myriad of ways to use that space.”
Quentin Garcia is the Executive Chef for all their restaurants in the hotel including Rainbird and the theater which features American comfort food.
The fun continues at the Mainzer with the main stage that offers a diverse lineup of entertainment where guests can dine, have drinks, and watch a show like the Killer Dueling Pianos, the Selena tribute band, drag night or the upcoming Tom Petty tribute band.
The gem upstairs called the cinema has an array of seating options from comfy couches to oversized chairs giving it a nice living room feel. There are several options in the cinema for guests to enjoy like movies, concerts, or a new lecture series where individuals discuss important topics regarding the Central Valley. Guests can order food and drinks and have them delivered while watching movies or concerts in the cinema. They have a few self-serve beers for people to choose from upstairs.
“The little cinema upstairs, it is a real jewel,” Garner said. “We do very interesting programming both on the main stage and in the cinema.”
They had their very first speakeasy last month which Garner shared was “a riot” with the Merced Symphony. They entered through the side door with a password and secret knock. Everyone was in 1920s attire and there was a jazz band from Fresno that performed.
“There is 100 years of experiences in that theater space, that is a long time,” said Garner. “It means a lot to our area. Both of our properties do. When they were built it was unique and revolutionary for our time and our area 100 years ago. We are trying to bring that back now; it is important to us. I think the community has really embraced it.”
For those that may live out of town the beautifully renovated El Capitan offers valet parking, elegant rooms, and a short walk on Main Street to the Mainzer.
They offer brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. where they serve up mimosas and families and friends have been known to spend time enjoying the ambiance and playing board games.
With football season underway, the Mainzer knows there are football fans in the 209 that may want to watch a game on the big screen. They will be showing some of the games on the big screen this football season.
“I am hoping that over time with both the hotel and the Mainzer, people start to look at Merced with fresh eyes,” remarked Garner. “Me being part of the 209 and from the Valley we want to be surprising and exciting in a way that really does speak to where we live and the uniqueness of where we live. We are not just a drive through area. We have an awful lot to offer and it is very much our own.”
To find out what all the buzz is truly about at the Mainzer, visit their website at themainzer.com or call 209-446-4001 or on social media: Facebook and Instagram@mainzermerced.
They are located at 655 West Main Street in Merced.