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Nearly five years after buying an 1890 home at 7479 Harwood Ave. in Tosa Village, owner Nathaniel Davauer says that the Draft & Vessel new beer bar should be open in “weeks.”
Though, he added with a smile, “weeks can become months if you have enough of them.”
The house was razed to make room for a newly constructed, eye-catching building.
Although delays have slowed the project, which was approved in 2018 and on which construction began in January 2020 (Lori Fredrich wrote about that here), parts of it are finished and open.
The bottle shop, which is in a small attached building connected to the main bar structure by a breezeway, is open, and the “Beer School” events space to the rear, and the patio – called the "Beer Grotto" – are also done, but not yet open.
“We finally got all the snow off of it,” says Draft & Vessel’s Rob Novak, as he shows me the patio.
You can see the Anodyne patio, two doors away, from out back, and although there’s a view to the south for now, that will be replaced in the coming years by a recently announced residential development that will wrap around three sides of Draft & Vessel.
The space directly in front of the bottle shop will have outdoor seating and that, too, has finally been relieved of most of its snow.
The place is about double the size of the first Draft & Vessel location in Shorewood.
"We invite folks to walk through the 'sluice' to see the soon-to-be-unveiled Beer Grotto and the Beer School, which will be available to rent," says Novak. "We encourage them to stop by the Bottle Shop to say hi and get more info on what we're up to."
The striking structure was designed in collaboration with Patrick Jones of Ramsey Jones Architects and the place has the look of a Jones building with modern lines but warm wood finishings and exposed joists.
“Nobody seems to remember what the house that was here looked like,” says Davauer, “but we every day we see people outside point at the (new) building and talking about it.”
Some of the wood, says Davauer, was reclaimed from the home that previously occupied the site, including some hefty beams that may be from trees that date to the 18th century.
The large bar area is the one part that isn’t yet finished, though stepping inside, it’s definitely taking shape, with 32 taps installed, much of the main bar in place and booths under construction.
This area will have two garage doors that open onto the front patio. Just outside one of the garage doors there will be a standing bar fashioned out of an I-beam.
Similarly, the Beer School space, which can be used for seating when not rented, also has a garage door that opens to the back patio, which is covered.
The exterior of the building is faced with reclaimed wood from pickle barrels and scraps from those barrels also adorn the main bar inside, which Davauer hopes to unveil on St. Patrick’s Day in a streaming event featuring local Irish musicians.
Right now, he’s focused on finishing the work in the main bar and solving the little problems that pop up and, whenever possible, turning unexpected issues into positives, much like the addition of that I-beam bar outside, which is being installed atop part of a low concrete wall that was poured longer than had been planned.
“Some of the best things come out of these problems,” says Davauer. “We’re in that phase now where these happy accidents arise.”
Pickle barrel wood siding
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.