Standing in the vestibule of The Pub Club, Jake Dehne leaned against a freshly painted silver support column.
"You’re always analyzing what Milwaukee wants and expects," he said.
It’s why he and his brother Seth shuttered Suite at 1103 N. Old World 3rd St. and enlisted the help of Rinka Chung Architecture to design The Pub Club, which opens to the public Friday evening.
The Dehnes, along with 3 Beacons partner Mike Zimmerman, believes The Pub Club fills a void in the Milwaukee nightlife scene.
"I would say it kind of came from what we were observing over the last couple of years of how Milwaukee has changed and it’s what the consumer wants," Jake Dehne said. "We took a part of that. We took a part of … how can we find a way that you can not only have a good dinner but then stick around and not have to be, now we get back in the car, now we’ve got to drive over here to do this part of the entertainment?"
In a first look, OnMilwaukee.com toured around the unique space full of sliding doors, windows and ambient lighting and sound.
"It’s really unique to Milwaukee," Zimmerman said. "I love it. I really love what they built and I think the city’s going to be all over this thing."
Just inside the vestibule, which includes a garage door that can open to the patio on nice evenings, is the pub, which can seat 100 people. The tables, all made from butcher block, form an "L" around a bar that is constructed out the wood staves of Jack Daniels whiskey.
Behind the bar, patrons can see the keg cooler, which allows bartenders to serve any one of the 17 beers on tap – including many craft choices – at near-freezing temperatures.
"You can’t ask for a colder beer," said Dehne, noting that only six inches of tubing separates the keg in the cooler from your glass.
Patrons will also be able to select from a handful of finer liquor not normally found in bars (like Johnny Walker Blue, Gran Patrón, Macallan, and Jack Daniels Sinatra Select) which will also be displayed above the bar.
In the future, former Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson and his TwentyFourWines will be a part of the pub.
To compliment the wood staves, horizontal red wine barrels from California make up the trim. The woods are contrasted with Edison lights wrapped in chandeliers that resemble the steel straps across the barrels and staves, as well as a sliding steel door that separates the pub from the club in the back.
A copper still will also be placed above the door in deference to the old moonshine industry.
"It’s really an homage to the crafts, of how things are made, and that plays into Milwaukee," Dehne said.
Noted local artist Jimmy Cha Cha was commissioned to create a mural of signature Milwaukee and Wisconsin-based beers to add some color to the space, and the keg cooler is equipped with LED lighting.
A sliding barn door opens up to a 40-person space that can be reserved for private parties. During "pub hours" from 5 to 10 p.m., the space will remain open for overflow seating. The backdrop is a painting of the Milwaukee skyline, which will light up as well. This area faces the dance floor, separated by another glass paneled garage door that will open once the club begins to change its vibe from pub to club.
Smaller sliding barn doors cordon off the DJ booth and small steps that lead to the dance floor.
As for the food, the 3 Beacons group realized that the taste of Milwaukeeans have changed over the years. Simple nachos and quesadillas no longer will cut it. So, the pub will focus more on shared appetizers, such as a bowl of bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, a bucket of frog legs, or steam or buffalo sliders in a nod toward a community that is looking for food that is on par with a proper craft beer, fine wine and liquor selection.
"It’s almost like back to the earth roots of beer and drinking and wine and booze," Dehne said.
There are several ways the staff of The Pub Club will transition the space once it enters the late night hours. The sliding steel door will open on the right side of the bar, opening up to the club side. (The sound system is the same throughout the club, but it will be managed within the pub so conversations can be maintained.)
The LED lighting in the keg cooler will even change, as will the lighting on the skyline mural in the 40-person seating area.
A live DJ will be on hand, but the focus is on music from the 1990s and 2000s, with a few current popular hits and artists featured. It’s not billed as a true "night club" and while Dehne said some of the city’s more talented DJs will be booked, they are not a headliner.
The dance floor area features a large bar, and two private areas that will help accommodate bachelorette/bachelor parties, or other group gatherings. One of the locations, which is located near the DJ booth, will eventually include a pour-your-own-beer option for guests.
When the club is open, an additional set of doors can be opened in the vestibule to help direct people to that area of the space.
"Here we’re trying to do something new and exciting," Dehne said. "This is something different. This is a grand experiment, in a way."
Call it a hybrid, call it a transformer, call it an amalgamation of two aspects of the Milwaukee night life that 3 Beacons feels can be improved upon.
"It’s all about who’s behind this thing and Jake and Seth are the best in the business," Zimmerman said. "What I like about The Pub Club is – you’ve got to see it – but the business model. They’ve taken this space and it’s a transformer. During the day it’s this, at night it’s this. The way they’ve designed it and thought about the space, it’s a remarkable way to use space that allows for you to be one product during the day and into the night, and then transition into a different product, which is the club, event-driven space."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.