Going Hollywood: How the Lakeside Inn Became a Filming Haven for Austin Butler and Tom Hardy of The Bikeriders

Brian Mack had dreamed of owning and renovating a bar in his hometown of Middletown. Then Hollywood came calling.

Mar 22, 2023 at 5:29 am
click to enlarge After filming The Bikeriders at Lakeside Inn in Middletown, crews will replace the building's awning that was burned. - Photo: Katie Griffith
Photo: Katie Griffith
After filming The Bikeriders at Lakeside Inn in Middletown, crews will replace the building's awning that was burned.

This story is featured in the March 22 issue of CityBeat.

Last summer, Brian Mack purchased the Lakeside Inn in Middletown, which hadn’t been open for business in more than eight years. The previous owners tried to renovate but were overwhelmed by the amount of money and work necessary to rehabilitate the building that was over 100 years old, Mack tells CityBeat.

A local real estate appraiser of 30 years, Mack says he’d dreamed of owning and renovating a bar in his hometown. But before Mack could tackle much, Hollywood knocked on the door just weeks after he’d purchased the property.

“I’m starting to do all the maintenance and getting ready to fix everything, and in June or July, we got the knock.” Mack tells CityBeat, recalling when a film location scout showed up at his door. “And they go, ‘The director needs to come back and look at it and see if he wants to use it.’

To Mack’s surprise, a crew was interested in using the Lakeside Inn as a filming location for The Bikeriders, an upcoming crime/drama movie that follows a midwestern motorcycle gang through its members’ lives. It stars Austin Butler, Tom Hardy and Michael Shannon and is directed by Jeff Nichols. 
“So meeting two happened, and I got down here and there were like fourteen cars in the parking lot,” Mack says. “I walk in to all these people – the producer, director, set designer, script writer. I mean, everybody was here. It was kind of shocking.”

The fictional story that The Bikeriders details is based on a book of photos by the same name. Published in 1967, the book documents photographer Danny Lyon’s real-life experience in the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club over four years.

Mack says as soon as the second meeting concluded and a representative asked him to talk outside, he knew that he’d eventually see the Lakeside Inn on the big screen.

“In my head I’m going, ding-ding- ding-ding-ding,” Mack says, thinking about how big the inn’s reputation was about to get. “They said, ‘We want to use the Lakeside Inn and its name in the movie.’ And I said, ‘Absolutely.’”

Hollywood’s intervention provided Mack with some capital and much-needed interior restoration. Filming took place for about a week, but as part of the contract with Mack, crews were working on the inn for a couple of months beforehand. Producers rented the space from Mack at an undisclosed amount and renovated parts of the space that appear in the movie. Crews also filmed segments at other sites throughout Ohio and Kentucky.

Two large rooms make up most of the Lakeside Inn, with a long, narrow kitchen in the back. Pre-Hollywood, drop ceilings and wooden panels dated the interior. That changed for the film, though. To get the look that producers wanted for The Bikeriders, crews removed the drop ceiling in the main bar room, revealing an 11-foot-tall space. Most of the paneling was replaced with drywall that set designers painted a deep crimson. Mack says he’ll keep the color and will use it throughout the inn to create an intimate atmosphere. 
The original Lakeside Inn bar is still intact, Mack says, but set designers mounted a deer head above a vintage cash register prop and decorated the bar with old bottles and mirrors. Mack was able to keep props like signage, the deer head and items burned during a controlled, explosive fire scene.

“They took accelerant and they rolled it on with a paint roller,” Mack says. “They burned the living jack out of this building. They even took out the front windows and made firebox windows, so it really looked like the building was on fire.”

Looking at the building today, evidence of the fire is nonexistent. Mack says it left no structural damage and crews repaired anything that was ruined, but an exterior awning was sacrificed. As of press time, Mack is awaiting the arrival of a new one, paid for by the film.

Mack says he plans to use props from The Bikeriders to decorate the Lakeside Inn once construction is finished. He wants to install a photo-opp corner that features scorched props (including the Lakeside Inn’s sign) that were burned during filming. Mack and his family were used as extras and stand-ins during the fire scene and a handful of others.

“It was absolutely surreal. They let me, my son and my daughter – we were all extras in the street watching it burn,” Mack says. “[Mack’s son] Josh was in four or five different scenes. It was just so cool, seeing all the stars up close. Tom Hardy was out here playing with one of the neighborhood dogs. Austin Butler was the nicest person you would ever want to meet.”

A storied history

Mack says the production crew had a name in mind for the fictional bar that would appear in The Bikeriders, but they liked Lakeside Inn’s own name better. And just like that, the 100-year-old bar and restaurant gained another extraordinary notch on its already notable timeline. Mack says the building was erected sometime in the late 1920s and has always operated in some form as a bar or restaurant. In the ’30s, it became known as the Lakeside Inn, he says.

“It was one of the more happening spots back in the day,” Mack tells CityBeat. “I first came in here with my grandfather when I was very young, probably in the early ’70s. It always was a nicer place.”
In addition to now being a film location, the establishment holds another claim to fame. Mack says that according to tales passed down by locals, Clyde Barrow – half of the criminal duo Bonnie and Clyde – is rumored to have stopped by the Lakeside Inn for a drink. Barrow was arrested on March 18, 1930, in Middletown after a stint of robberies. The Middletown Division of Police keeps the jail record and photo in its lobby.

“Clyde was actually in this restaurant,” Mack says. “I guess he came in here and drank and then ended up going down to Gough-Lamb Cleaners [and] tried to rob it. I heard he threw his gun in the canal right by Smith Park.”

Mack – who co-owns the property with his son, Josh Mack – says he’d planned to honor the history of the inn before Hollywood even became part of the picture.

“The plan was to get it open and then do food trucks – real good ones – and just have them rotate. And we’d have bands – my son is a singer songwriter in Nashville and my brother’s in a band, my cousins are in a band. We’re all in music,” Mack says.

Looking ahead

Since filming concluded in the fall, Mack has been finishing renovations and plans to open for business by the end of the summer. The Lakeside Inn will again be an operating bar that now pays homage to both its history and the filming of The Bikeriders, Mack says, adding that he’ll build indoor and out- door stages and include as many film props in the decor as he can.

The Bikeriders is scheduled to debut in late 2023.

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