Southport focuses on beer, burgers and Milwaukee history
After eight years in business, Cans Bar and Canteen closed its doors last month and the space, 1815 E. Kenilworth Pl., is now home to Southport, a new bar and soon-to-be restaurant.
Owners Jeremy Voss, Josh Krish and Linda Krish (Josh's mom) closed on the business in early October and spent the rest of the month transforming the space into a completely new environment. Hardwood floors, a tin ceiling and light fixtures crafted by a friend create a look and feel that's both modern and reminiscent of bars from the past.
The concept of the decor also is a nod to Milwaukee's brewing history. Voss says he plans to hang framed newspaper articles along with old brewing memorabilia and vintage photographs – some of which may come from the Milwaukee Public Library – and all of this as a way to draw people into Milwaukee's past.
"We need to get back to the roots of Milwaukee, particularly the brewing part," says Voss. "It was an exciting period in Milwaukee history, from the early 1900s into the '30s and '40s."
Voss and Krish worked together before at the now-defunct Lava, which later became Live, and today houses the Hotel Foster, 2028 E. North Ave.
Southport offers a variety of imported and local beers, with more to come in the future. The owners are currently working on a craft cocktail menu. Drink specials take place every night of the week.
Currently, Southport's kitchen is under construction but in the near future the establishment will offer a burger-based menu with an emphasis on locally-sourced food items.
"We're going to really get creative and offer all different kinds of burgers. We're going to really mix things up," says Voss.
Krish, who grew up in Manitowoc, currently lives in Chicago where he works in the real estate industry. Southport is the name of a street in Chicago which was once populated with multiple Schlitz tied houses.
A "tied house" was a type of saloon that originated in England and became popular in pre-prohibition America. Tied houses, which are believed to have contributed to the national prohibition law in 1919, were bars linked to one particular brewery, only selling its beer. A number of former tied houses remained in Chicago, even though illegal, and most of the remaining buildings were tied to the Milwaukee-based Schlitz brewery.
Although he lives in Chicago, Krish still deeply identifies with Wisconsin. He says living in the Windy City as a Brewers, Packers and Badgers fan isn't easy.
"Luckily, there's a Milwaukee sports bar that I can go to and not completely stick out," he says.
Krish says he was always interested in the Kenilworth space because of it's size and location, so when the opportunity came along to take it over, Krish knew it was time to get back into the drinking / dining business.
The main challenge so far, Voss says, is catering to the Cans clientele while simultaneously trying to reach out to more people in the city. He says he's grateful for the business that they inherited from Cans, but also want to move forward with their new concept.
"This is a place where all types of people can enjoy themselves and feel understood," says Voss. "Southport is a place where people can find out more about what the city of Milwaukee is all about and where it came from."
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