Once again, Club Anything, 807 S. 5th St., finds itself at a crossroads like it did more than a decade ago when the nightclub first opened.
At the time, owner Todd Novasic planned to update his first bar, The Sanctuary, and reopen it as Club Anything, a new-and-improved Goth bar. However, just two days after resigning the lease, the Columbine shootings occurred, causing some people to negatively stereotype Goth culture.
So Novasic downplayed the Goth image of his bar and gave it more of an industrial vibe. Then, in May 2010, Novasic and manager Gary Czaplewski added an absinthe lounge called Elixir in the back bar of Club Anything.
According to Czaplewski, it has been the proverbial hills and valleys for both of venues. Czaplewski says he hopes to lease the space from Novasic in the next few months and he might make a few changes, but for now, he and Novasic are looking ahead to the bars' future together.
OnMilwaukee.com recently caught up with Czaplewski to find out what's next for the bars, if Goth is dead and whether or not absinthe really makes you hallucinate.
OnMilwaukee.com: It has been almost exactly a year since Elixir Lounge opened. How's it going for Elixir and Club Anything?
Gary Czaplewski: Well, it's been an up and down year in general with the economy and all, and having to resurrect the club from a tough spot. I took over as general manager a year ago with the intent to lease the bar. We are now getting to that transition point. It took several months, however, and things are trending upward through consistent weekly events, numerous special events and live shows along with marketing on the cheap using Facebook and fliers mostly. Most people don't realize the overhead of running a nightclub.
OMC: Does Elixir have regular hours?
GC: The Elixir Lounge is limited to Friday and Saturday nights at the moment. We are able to do most of the absinthe drips and cocktails in the main front bar and open the Elixir Lounge when the turnout requires it.
OMC: What are your near-future plans for the bars?
GC: I have plans for the Elixir Lounge this summer to open it directly from the street with direct access to our beer garden which it does not have now.
Also, I recently brought back the 25-cent tapper night with great success every Wednesday with live DJs. Also, the public's invited to bring in music and DJ during our "Open Spin Sundays."
OMC: I know you serve Great Lakes Distillery's absinthe, but do you offer any other kinds?
GC: Indeed! I'm grateful to say that in our discussions with Great Lakes Distillery (GLD) regarding the lounge, they suggested that we stock absinthe from around the world if we want to be a real absinthe lounge. I agreed wholeheartedly. We rotate our stock, with GLD's Amerique 1912 Verte and Rouge varieties along with France's Pernod anchoring the line. Currently we also have Le Torment, Lucid, Maharaja and Kubler. This is an ever-changing list. Keep current at www.elixirlounge.us.
OMC: How much does absinthe cost?
GC: Absinthe is easily the most expensive spirit that we purchase ounce to ounce. A typical drip (an ounce of absinthe "louched" or "cut" with ice water) ranges from $9 to $11. Cocktails made with absinthe, many of them containing additional spirits, range from $9 to $20. The Absinthe Long Island is a favorite for obvious reasons.
OMC: Does absinthe make you hallucinate?
GC: There is a lot of study on this topic and the FDA, along with most connoisseurs of absinthe, agree that it does not. There was a slander campaign in the late 1800s and early 1900s by the French grape lobby against absinthe so that it could remove it from the market as a competitor. The consensus is that there is a different type of buzz, a lucid body buzz in which you still feel clear-headed. Too much of any alcohol, of course, can impair your thinking and one must be responsible.
OMC: What is the alcohol content? Do yo have to "cut people off" a lot?
GC: Most absinthe ranges from 120-130 proof. That's 60-65 percent alcohol. However, it is not served straight. When it is louched traditionally by adding ice cold water very slowly, it mixes with the absinthe freeing the oils and herbs in the spirit and making it lovely to enjoy, and about one-third of the proof for the whole drink. We do not allow absinthe shots or the igniting of the absinthe, which just ruins the drink anyways. I have never had to cut off anyone due to absinthe consumption. The Elixir Lounge is fully stocked for our guests to enjoy other spirits and beer.
OMC: Would you still consider Club Anything to be a Goth club?
GC: I would say no. We like to be tagged "Milwaukee's Music Alternative." We cater to a lot of styles you would hear on 102.1 and 91.7 along with our traditional Goth Industrial Saturdays. We are very accessible and have a very diverse clientele. Hosting special events and live shows featuring bands from around the world has really opened up the club to many new eyes. Great drink specials don't hurt either. We are proud of our diversity. Rock, synthpop, ebm, industrial, metal, indie, punk, pop. It all gets some attention here.
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.