Summer is in full swing and so is our need to hit up the hottest patios in the city. There's no time like patio time in summertime - especially when it's Miller Time!
When you buy a giant hospitality space near the harbor in Walker’s Point, what on earth do you do with it?
Well, you create a concert venue and an event space and, of course, you build an amazing patio.
That’s exactly what Ramsey Renno and Tyler Curran did last summer when they opened The Ivy House and the Fernweh (German for "wanderlust") patio in the space at 904 S. Barclay St. that formerly housed The Point and The Sangria Bar.
While the Ivy House is perfect for concerts and comedy performances, as well as corporate events and weddings, Fernweh brings the party outside.
The 4,000-square foot space is enclosed by a wall giving it both a feeling of breadth but also of intimacy. There are tables off in the corner and beautiful plantings of flowers, shrubs and plants along the perimeter, but also in planters that jut out helping to create settings that feel nook-ish.
In about the center is the big, four-sided, roofed bar.
"We bought the whole property last Valentine's Day," says Curran, "and we've been looking at getting into the venue game for a while now – five, six years. As soon as we came here, the inside, yes, it had some elements of the industrial, tall ceilings, things like that that were important.
"But the reason we moved so aggressively was because the size of our patio, 4,000 square feet. We have no noise issues all the way until 2 a.m., we are allowed to do a full-service bar out here until 2. Just really rare. We can have fires going out here, we can have bag toss, giant Jenga and just hanging out."
Inside is a huge open space, as Curran notes, with skylights, exposed brick and structural steel, but with a sleek, modern vibe, too. But on a beautiful day – or night – the party is definitely going to expand to the patio.
But, because The Ivy House is primarily an events-driven space, it’s been a challenge for the owners to publicize the venue as a traditional bar.
"The only time people are ever here is if they are invited, or if they have a ticket to an event," says Curran. "So a wedding, or a concert, or an after party."
When those events are going on inside, the patio is part of the deal and can’t be open to the public in the way a typical bar is. But many of the events are, themselves, open to the public, be it as ticketed events or, often, as free-admission events.
As examples of the diversity of events on tap at Fernweh, the patio has also hosted a maker’s market and a chef's dinner with Teens Grow Greens.
(PHOTO: Carr Studios Photography/Fernweh Facebook)
"We do a lot of concerts and stuff," says Curran. "We do a summer series with 88Nine. Events like that, a lot of them are actually open to the public, tickets might be 5 or 10 bucks but nothing crazy. In that type of event, then we are open to the public. You can either come in and pay $5 or you can just come in because it's free. If it's outside if there's good weather we'll do all the music outside, if it's poor weather, we have this as a backup location, we have a really good sound system in here, as well."
Still, you can experience Fernweh pretty regularly, as the Ivy House is always adding more and more events – details of which you can find on the website – that are open to everyone. For example, The Ivy House is partnering with the Walker’s Point Association on a summer concert series. And during next week’s Northwestern Mutual annual celebration, Fernweh will host an EDM concert that’s open to the public for free.
Sometimes, says Curran, Fernweh will open up on an available evening and create its own event.
"We'll just do a Wednesday night, we'll bring in a food truck, we'll pair it with some sort of wine offering that night, and then we'll have this great jazz artist out here until 10 o'clock at night kind of thing," he says.
Typically, that sort of event is free and open to all.
"I think of it kind of like Summerfest," says Curran. "You go there, you have a fun time, but you would only go there if you were going for a specific event or a thing or something like that. That's kind of what this is. We have booked those weddings and corporate events and we've found a lot of success in that, but we still have only booked about 80 gigs, 80 events. That leaves us with this outdoor space that's available 280 days of the year."
Don’t think Fernweh is going to sit idle for the winter, either, says Curran, who tells me he and Renno have purchased a former stables and garage building next door that will be torn down to expand customer parking.
"We're already looking to partner about doing some sort of winter dinner options out here and things like that that, even like tenting off sections of it or what have you," he says. "We want some of those Santa runs and things, we want that type of event.
"We've been flirting with opening it over a weekend in January and cutting out all the snow to almost look like booths. Milwaukee is always looking for reasons to get outside."
Though much of the patio – which was designed by Quorum Architects – was complete last summer, some things didn’t get finished until after Fernweh opened.
The limestone bartop, for example, and the cedar cladding around the posts that support the bar canopy.
"Now we’re doing major upgrades like air conditioning," says Curran, who did most of the plantings himself, along with with his wife and his mother.
"At this point, we’re feeling like we’re done and we just need to maintain it."
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 has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.