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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014

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In Bars & Clubs

High-fives from bar manager Shawn Moebius are just part of the fun.

In Bars & Clubs

Puddler's Hall: To do what you will.

In Bars & Clubs

Free table tennis plays a large part in Puddler's resurgence.

In Bars & Clubs

Puddler's Hall is one of Bay View's oldest buildings.

Historic tavern's resurgence in Bay View


"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com – brought to you by Hornitos, OR-G, Party Armor, Red Stag, Absolut, Fireball and Malibu – is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!

It's time to check in with Puddler's Hall, 2461 S. Saint Clair St., which re-opened six months ago after Casey Foltz acquired the bar. Based around an "interactive sports bar theme," Puddler's, under Foltz, has seen a resurgence as a Bay View watering hole as well as a place for free table tennis and bag toss.

"It's been picking up over the last few months," says Foltz.

Foltz, an avid home brewer, is busy securing the equipment to make Puddler's a brew pub. Part of his original plan when he took over the bar, Foltz is still on track for brewing, which he initially thought would take between six and 12 months to get operational.

"I expect to have the equipment in shortly, but it will be a couple more months after that until it's all up and running," he says.

Foltz counts stouts among his favorite beers, but says he'll be doing a variety.

In the meantime, Puddler's Hall has become a destination for ping pong players – that's table tennis to the true aficionado – which can be played in the hall during the day and most evenings except during regularly scheduled events, such as bag toss tournaments.

Bag toss, which is also known as soft horseshoes – and cornhole to many Milwaukeeans, in spite or maybe because of the term's additional sexual connotations – is another popular interactive sport at Puddler's.

Currently being played on Tuesdays, Foltz would like to see more bag toss tournaments during the day on Saturdays, which will also continue to be live music night at Puddler's.

The next live show, Saturday, Feb. 25, is Bumpy Jonas, the Moses Gunn and the debut of 4Jacks and a Jill, which describes its music as "metal bashed out with velveteen mallets."

The following Saturday Milwaukee's own acoustic-loop guitarist and singer Peter D'Amore will perform.

Don't worry if your sports-while-drinking interests run more spectator than interactive; Puddler's is also a great place to catch broadcast games on their flat screens. The interactive part takes place in the old meeting hall, adjacent the bar and its TVs. But also note that when it comes to interactive, table tennis reigns supreme.

"I actually love that there's not a pool table in here. Ping pong is awesome," says Dana Pomarez, who's tended bar at Puddler's since its reopening.

Other regular events at Puddler's includes a beer club, when five different types of beer are sampled each week. The beer club, which is available to everyone, involves a $12 sign-up charge and costs $8 each week. Beer club is every Wednesday beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Puddler's hosts karaoke every other Friday night and has board games on Sundays. There are table tennis leagues on Thursdays. Interested players can sign up at the bar.

In addition to the brew pub, Foltz is planning a beer olympics, at which brave contestants will test their mettle in a variety of drinking games for fun and prizes. With the number of professional drinkers in Milwaukee, this should prove to be true competition.

Puddler's Hall has a long and storied history. It's the second oldest bar in Milwaukee, one of the oldest standing (former) union halls in the nation and among the oldest buildings in Bay View.

"The oldest union hall was in New York City, until it burned down a year ago, crowning Puddler's Hall the oldest," says Shawn Moebius, Puddler's bar manager for the last four months. Moebius is formerly of The Nomad World Pub, 1401 E. Brady St., and later The Highbury Pub, 2322 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., where he still occasionally works.

The building, which has three apartments upstairs and one in the back in addition to the bar and hall, was built in 1872 as the Puddlers and Boilers union hall, whose workers were employed at the Milwaukee Iron Company. In 1892, the building was sold to the Falk, Young and Borchert Brewing Company and later absorbed by Pabst, which made Puddler's Hall one of its company taverns.

In 1921, the Puddler's building became Barbieri's Dance Hall, which was rumored to have a speakeasy complete with a hidden tunnel during Prohibition. It was the monthly meeting place of the Garibaldi Society before the group purchased its current home in the early '40s.

The space went through several more iterations, such as Potter's Inn, Mardee's Party and the Bay View Bandwagon until Tim Capper renamed it Puddler's Hall in 2002. Capper gutted the bar, replacing walls and floors and maintaining its union history until 2011. Building owner Cele Stepke and Foltz re-opened Puddler's with fresh paint and a new idea, keeping the historic tavern alive.

As a nod to its union days, the labor organizing slogan used during various campaigns for the eight-hour work day remains above the windows in the bar. "8 hours for work," "8 hours for sleep," "8 hours for what you will" are painted on three separate panels.

Fortunately, you can get more than just eight hours for what you will at Puddler's Hall, which opens at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The happy hour special of $1 tappers goes until 7 p.m. Puddler's opens at 11 a.m. on weekends, which is when Foltz can usually be found in his bar – playing table tennis.


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