By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Apr 19, 2024 at 11:01 AM

There’s a new bar and cocktail lounge slated for the ground floor retail space in the KinetiK apartment building at 2150 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. 

17th Ward Cocktail Lounge is the name of the venue, which will be yet another destination in a growing list of bars and restaurants popping up along the Northernmost stretch of Kinnickinnic Avenue.  That includes Paloma Taco + Tequila, EsterEv, Room Service and Todd I Believe I Can Fry, all of which have cropped up around legacy businesses including The Backyard and Lost Whale.

Behind the new bar are four industry veterans: majority owners Madalynn Park and her mother Cary Park, whose career has included opening iconic venues including Barnacle Buds and 4th Base; along with Marco Flores, a longtime employee at Riviera Maya and Rudy’s; and Oscar Mendez, an artist and craftsperson closely affiliated with the hospitality industry.

Madlynn Park, a swimming instructor who developed an appreciation for the nuanced flavors of wine, beer and cocktails through her work in restaurants, says she has always admired her mother.

“My mother is why I am who I am today,” she says. “She was a great mom. She took great care of me. But she also worked really hard at her job, and I’ve always known that if I started a business my mother would be right there beside me.”

In fact, she says it’s the synchronicity between herself, her mother, Flores and Mendez that makes her excited about their partnership.

“We’ve known one another for years and we work so well together,” she says. “We decided as a team to open a bar and together we’ll bring a great deal of diversity – and diverse experiences – to the table.”

The name 17th Ward is a nod to history, commemorating the annexation of the Village of Bay View by the City of Milwaukee in 1887. And that history will be a theme that forms the foundation for the bar and its aesthetic.

“I grew up in Bay View and my family has been part of the community for a long time,” notes Park who says that the partners hope to create myriad connections to the neighborhood's history as they plan out the look and feel for the bar.

“I’m nostalgic, and there are so many stories here. We hope to tell some of them through art, photos and even the materials that we use for the build-out,” she says, noting that the plan is to create a space with an industrial aesthetic that makes use of a variety of metals, including copper and iron.

While the menu is still under development, Park says that the 17th Ward will showcase seasonal offerings including craft cocktails, a curated selection of wine and beer and a healthy list of zero-proof offerings.

“We want this to be a welcoming place where you can come in and enjoy an elegant cocktail or simply grab a cold beer after a long day,” she says.

“I have days when I just want something simple, and I have days when I don’t want to drink alcohol at all. So we want it to be a place where you can drink what you want with no judgement.”

Park says they also want the bar to pay homage to the hard workers in the hospitality industry, and they’ll do so through dedicated service industry days.

“We’re excited to be able to open in Bay View,” she says, “We love it here and we can’t wait to be part of the community of businesses on this block.”

If all goes well, Park says they hope to open the 17th Ward Cocktail Lounge by the end of the summer.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.