Ten Bells will soon be the bar formerly known as Ten Bells. But the new name is yet to be decided even though the space already has a completely different look, feel and purpose.
While many establishments close during the remodeling process, Ten Bells didn’t. Instead, customers have been able to witness the transformation. And it is still a work in progress.
The first change was the walls went from metal gray to warmer tones of burgundy and gold. The back bar was rebuilt and looks like vintage wooden boxes filled with booze bottles and knick-knacks. There’s also an intimate back lounge that’s potentially ideal for a "date night."
"The one thing the neighborhood was missing is a place that’s comfortable for people to go before or after dinner and enjoy a drink in a warm, casual space," says managing partner, Samuel Berman.
The lighting is extremely ambient – with ‘70s chandeliers, candles and a faux fireplace – and the walls have a mix of hangings, from thrift store scores to photos from Berman’s parent’s ‘70s wedding.
It’s a mash-up of Bay View’s Burnhearts and a tasteful grandma’s house. It’s classy meets cozy.
"We only want things in here that have a feel of time. We want to make the space feel older but not antiquated," he says.
But drinkers can’t get too attached to the adornments because the plan is to change them up often.
"We want an environment that’s eclectic and changeable. The walls will start one way but things are going to move and develop over time – change to represent not just the people who operate the bar, but the people who come to the bar," says Berman.
Ten Bells opened in 2009, and although it had a good run, Berman says it was never the same after Lee Guk left to open Lucky Joe’s Tiki Room.
"Lee was a big part of what made Bells really successful. He was the heartbeat, and when he left, the place essentially went into a coma," says Berman.
Coincidentally, while trying to figure out exactly what to do with the space, Berman’s friend, bartender Tom Julio, moved back to Milwaukee with a vision and a willingness to commit to a new concept.
And now? The words "Ten Bells" are still displayed on the exterior despite the fact the interior outgrew the name weeks ago. There is so much more to come, but for now, Berman says they will reintroduce the space on or around Feb. 1.
"And we’ll have a name by then," he says.
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