By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jun 27, 2024 at 10:01 AM

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When Dawn and Craig Bloomfield decided to open a restaurant in 2008, they picked the name “Club Charlies” in honor of Dawn’s grandfather who called everyone “Charlie.” They weren’t sure if it was out of affection or a poor memory, but they thought it was the perfect moniker for an establishment they envisioned as welcoming, simple and, well, a place for carefree people to hang out. The proverbial “Good Time Charlies.”

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Sadly, in 2015, Dawn passed away, but Craig continues to run the business with the help of General Manager, Liz Hagedorn. In April, Club Charlies, 320 E. Menomonee St., celebrated its 15-year anniversary.

When Club Charlies first opened, there were few bars and eateries on the south side of the Third Ward. Thus, the new spot was an easy option for theatergoers, MIAD employees and people who lived in the apartments and condos in the neighborhood. But quality of food, affordable drinks, uber friendly service and a unique decor that’s both classy and casual made it more than a place of convenience for customers – it became a place of choice.

“We’ve remained a constant in the Third Ward,” says Hagedorn, who has worked at Club Charlies since its inception.

Kitchen Manager Tony Johnson has worked at the establishment for 13 years and the “newest” employee has already been there for four years. Bartender / server Stefanique Franks has six years of employment under her belt and, with the encouragement of Bloomfield and Hagedorn, is launching her scratch-made cheesecake business called “Say Cheese” from inside Club Charlies.

“Every time she makes a cheesecake, it sells out within a few days,” says Hagedorn.

“Craig and I have both been in the industry for a long time. We are committed to treating our staff like family, who in return, treat our regulars like family, too.”

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Hagedorn says their victories also hinge on the building's proximity to Henry Maier Festival Park – especially during Summerfest.

“We’re really lucky with our location,” says Hagedorn. “We’re in the heart of so much that’s going on in the city.”

The core of Club Charlie’s food and drink menu is, in Hagedorn's words, “approachable.” Wings, burgers, wraps, Ruebens, patty melts, hoagies, salads, nachos, chili and soups dominate the food offerings.

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club charliesX
club charliesX

There’s also a popular Taco Tuesday, Fried Chicken Thursday and Friday night fish and shrimp fry. Veggie options include a stellar grilled five-cheese sandwich, chickpea burger and more.

Johnson and Hagedorn created the reliable food menu together.

“We have a very large menu considering the (small) size of our kitchen,” says Hagedorn.

The drink selections are straight forward, mostly 2-or-3 ingredient cocktails, beers or non-alcoholic beverages. They also offer myriad happy hour and drink specials, as well as a loaded Bloody Mary. 

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Club Charlie’s decor features tomato-y red walls, large pieces of whimsical art, a wraparound bar, booth seating and quippy quotes painted on the walls that read "If you resolve to give up smoking, drinking and sex, you don't actually live longer, it just seems longer”; “Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast”; and, our personal favorite, “Work is the curse of the drinking class.”

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club charliesX

There’s also sidewalk service thanks to a cheerful patio overlooking Catalano Square.

The support of the LGBTQ+ community is invaluable to Club Charlies.

“The LGBTQ community really takes care of us,” says Hagedorn. “Especially during the pandemic, they supported us so strongly.”

But Club Charlies is an “everyone” bar that aims to provide a safe and comfortable space for all people.

“We want this to be a place where literally everyone feels warm and welcome,” says Hagedorn. “Dawn built the backbone for this place 15 years ago and we’re completely committed to it.”

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.